October 31st, 2020

ICSS valedictorian offers optimism to fellow graduates


By Lethbridge Herald on June 26, 2020.

Herald photo by Ian Martens - Family members lean out of their vehicles to get photos of a socially distant group portrait of the graduation class at the end of a drive-in grad ceremony for Immanuel Christian Secondary School Friday in the parking lot at Trinity Reformed Church. @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
sports@lethbridgeherald.com
Even in uncertain times, graduates of Immanuel Christian Secondary School have a clear vision.
On a hot, although slightly breezy, Friday afternoon in the Trinity Reformed Church parking lot, that was the theme as Immanuel Christian held its drive-in graduation.
With COVID-19 casting a shadow of uncertainty on the future — and necessitating Friday’s socially distanced, outdoor ceremony — Immanuel Christian class valedictorian Rian Opperman felt anything his classmates encounter once the pandemic is over will be smooth sailing.
“To me it’s just that with clear vision we’re not supposed to look at like ‘oh, COVID is here and this is a terrible situation,’” said the 18-year-old student. “We look at it as ‘this is bad right now, but later on it’s going to get way better.’ I mean, come on, if we can survive this with schooling then everything else is going to be a breeze.”
As the students took refuge in the shade next to the Trinity Reformed Church entrance in assigned chairs, proud parents and families parked their vehicles in their designated spots in the parking lot, cameras sticking out the windows to capture the unique moment as students walked to the stage.
For those who couldn’t make it, a link to watch online was set up.
“It’s kind weird being in this situation because I didn’t think three or four months ago that I would be in a parking lot for a graduation,” said Opperman. “It’s weird, but everybody said ‘let’s go all out because we haven’t been able to see each other about three or four months.’
“It means a lot because it’s just to show off our school spirit and our interconnectedness. We’ve all come together here and we’re all dressed up and going through the graduation.”
In past years, a graduation ceremony would be inside the church, complete with a nice meal, said ICSS principal Matthew Bekkering.
“When COVID hit we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to be able to recognize our graduating class. We’re very thankful the group size restrictions kind of lessened in Phase 2 and we were able to modify our graduation ceremony and have a drive-in.
“We’re thankful we’re able to have 100 as our group size — socially distanced, of course — but each of the graduates has family coming in and they each have a stall (in the parking lot). They’re going to be inside their cars and we have an FM system set up where we’re going to get the audio into their cars. We’ll have a livestream as well for those who want to watch from home. We have our graduates sitting here and they will have the opportunity to walk the stage, so we’re thrilled about that.”
The graduates’ vision is clear, but Bekkering said when the pandemic first hit three months ago, there were questions and concerns.
“I can tell you one of the first things we got emails about after the schools closed was ‘are we going to have a graduation for our graduates?’ So ever since then we’ve really been thinking about how we’re going to honour this class. We went out to each of the graduates homes two weeks ago and had a custom yard sign for each of them. So that was a lot of fun and it’s just one more way that we can have a family here just to honour the graduates.”
Many of Friday’s graduates have been together since Grade 1.
Opperman arrived at the school in Grade 7, but has noticed the change along the way, taking a somewhat humourous assessment.
“I’d like to say we’ve grown smarter, but throughout the years I think we have some evidence to disprove that,” he said with a chuckle. “We’ve all adapted and become better people now we’re suited to go to the next point.”
Friday’s theme lent nicely to that sentiment.
“It’s interesting because their graduating theme is clear vision,” said Bekkering. “So in times that are unpredictable and really not being able to see what their future is going to be like, (they can) walk into the future with confidence and that God is going to lead them where they need to be.”
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