The future looks bright for nearly 170 graduates who proudly received their diplomas and tossed their caps high above a crowd of approximately 800 people this past weekend.
A sea of blue took over the Cominco Arena Friday night when J. L. Crowe Secondary grads reflected on the past five years at the Trail high school and looked forward to their next chapter with departing words from comrades, special guests and staff.
“As a group, adversity has challenged you directly or indirectly on several occasions this year and there will be more ahead,” said principal David DeRosa. “You have the capacity and the character to move forward and to achieve your goals; we’ve seen it in you.”
DeRosa often knew he was in trouble when a Beaver Valley Nitehawk, a high school debate champion, a young man with more film production credits than Martin Scorsese or a young lady, who five years ago spoke no English, approached his office with yet another idea.
“No appointments; no heads up; usually smiles; never enough Timbits,” he laughed. “There were days that I just didn’t stand a chance.”
Leadership was not something that this class lacked, he said, a constant message shared throughout the ceremony that was further highlighted when a total of 176 awards and prizes equaling $132,000 were doled out to 91 deserving students.
At this pinnacle moment, the class was reminded how far they’ve come from entering the school as “bright-eyed and innocent eighth-graders” by valedictorian Eric Matteucci.
“As frightened Grade 8s we walked down the halls, careful not to get in the way of any Grade 12 students,” he recalled.
“It almost seemed like they could smell our fear, and at any moment we could be ambushed and would get to test out the interior of the shiny, new teal lockers that lined the halls.”
But this frightful first impression quickly faded and over the years friendships were made and with that a strength formed. This continued into the group’s final year when Crowe welcomed former Rossland Secondary senior students into their community, with some finishing their final year at the school.
“RSS set itself a part from other schools with highly acclaimed art, drama and band programs as well as incredible pride for their school sports teams,” said Matteucci. “This year we unified under the same roof and went from being the Grade12s from Rossland and Crowe to being the graduating class of 2014.”
It was in the final months of high school that this tight-knit class, and community for that matter, suffered from a major loss. But fallen classmate Nolan Handley was not missing in spirit during the ceremony, where many paid tribute to him.
“In our struggle, we found hope and comfort in our families at home and also our families here at the Crowe,” said Matteucci. “We, the grads of 2014, have shown our resiliency and our abilility to persevere when it felt like we could not go on and that is something that we should be proud of.”
Pressing on was the same message voiced by guest speaker John Boateng, a former Crowe graduate who shared his “dandy” of a failure list, which highlighted throwing up during a watermelon eating competition at Montrose Family Fun Days to a failed basketball dunk that turned into a YouTube sensation. But, he said, these epic failures along the way only built him up for success and he is now the founder of Dream Hoops Academy, a writer and a financial broker.
The athlete didn’t get a chance to attend his graduation ceremony because he was off chasing his basketball career and was quick to savour his participation Friday with a quick photo of the class on his cell phone, which put the emotional crowd in stitches.
Tears of laughter and sorrow were wiped with Matteucci’s parting, honest words that reminded the graduates that they’re in control of their future, which will be full of difficult decisions that will define their character and in a sense their life.
“We must remember to contemplate our actions and know how they will affect us and those around us,” he said. “That is what these five years have prepared us for and it is something we must never forget on our journey through the rest of our lives.”