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They cheered, they danced, they laughed and they sang.

More than 300 North Peace Secondary School students donned themselves in crimson gowns and took the last steps of their high school careers during a graduation ceremony at the North Peace Arena Thursday afternoon.

The afternoon was filled with parting advice and wisdom from teachers, local dignitaries and fellow students — and money. Lots and lots of money for some 190 students who received bursaries and scholarships along with their diplomas.

Class valedictorian Sarah Lyons told her peers to explore themselves, and to march forward in life calm and without the fear of failure, despite the anxiousness and anticipation that comes with moving on to a new chapter of life.

“The truth is, the future is not set in stone and nothing is certain,” Lyons said.

“But, we are a generation of resilience, creativity, and determination. And I have full faith that you can rise above the challenges that come your way.”

It was standing room only at the arena, and family and friends erupted from their seats in cheers and hollers as the grads made their entrance, two by two, down the length of the arena.

Teacher Crystal Pobuda, who shared master of ceremonies duties with Vice-Principal Jason Gill, worked the audience with jokes:

“Why did the student eat his homework? Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake!” and “Why did the student do his homework on the plane? Because he wanted higher grades!”

About 190 students from the graduating class received bursaries and scholarships, including Makayla Chartrand, who earned a full tuition entrance scholarship to Trent University.

Other major recipients included Ben Blackmon, who earned a $8,000 scholarship from the University of Calgary’s DINOS Swim Team, and also took home a Dogwood District Authority Award, the Holly Hill Memorial Bursary, and the Rebecca Vecchio Memorial Bursary.

Oluwafunbi Aboderin and Orinami Adam both took home $4,000 entrance scholarships to Carleton University in Ottawa. Shiphrah Ogigbah took home the B.P.O. Elks Lodge 288 Scholarship as the school’s top academic graduate.

School District 60 Superintendent Dave Sloan told students to enjoy the moment, and recognize the friends who walked alongside them during their educational journey.

As graduates, they now have a responsibility to improve the world, Sloan added. While the classroom taught them the ABCs, life will teach them about the two Gs, he said.

“Make sure as you go to take time being gracious and grateful,” Sloan told students.

“Being gracious and grateful doesn’t cost you anything, and the returns are huge.”

Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser told grads they are the future builders of the community, and play an important role in being part of a “made in the North” solution of addressing the ever present needs for professionals in the area.

“Your community needs you. We need you to build a career here, start businesses here,” he said.

To those students choosing to leave to pursue education and a life elsewhere, Fraser told them not to worry.

“We’ll be waiting for you,” he said, “with a bigger and stronger community.”

Acting Fort St. John Mayor Trevor Bolin, in Mayor Lori Ackerman’s absence, told students they achieved what many of them probably thought impossible.

“The rest of the book called life is filled with everything you desire,” he said

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