Drive-in convocation caps school memories

St. Maurice ceremony gets high marks from grads

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LOUD cheers and car honks from balloon-laden vans greeted Nyume Mahmoud as she delivered her valedictorian speech in the St. Maurice School parking lot.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/06/2020 (823 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LOUD cheers and car honks from balloon-laden vans greeted Nyume Mahmoud as she delivered her valedictorian speech in the St. Maurice School parking lot.

A drive-In graduation is held at St. Maurice High School, at 1639 Pembina Hwy. on Wednesday.
The school’s 44 grads watched her from physically distanced chairs placed on the concrete around the temporary stage. Behind the grads, rows of cars contained parents and siblings craning their necks. Families could leave their vehicle when their grad was on stage; until then, they had to listen through open windows.

“Complaining is easy, but we’re about taking action,” Mahmoud said in her speech.

And action St. Maurice School’s staff and students did take. Faculty of the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 Catholic school had been planning a socially distanced convocation for more than a month. They tweaked their plans as health guidelines changed, Principal Bryan Doiron said.

Students followed a new system to get their diploma. They entered the stage on the left and stood on a black box as a teacher spoke about their awards, future plans and favourite moments. On the black box, grads were elevated for more people to see.

While each mini-speech went on, Doiron placed a diploma on the table so students could take it. Grads stepped off the podium, took their diploma, then stood on an ‘X’ on the stage to get their photo taken with the principal still behind them. Thus, Grade 12s still got their grad picture with their diploma and principal. The grads then exited stage right and picked up a grad bag before heading off to a photo backdrop for family pictures.

Valedictorian Nyume Mahmoud makes her way to the stage to give her speech to her fellow students on Wednesday.

The pandemic-era convocation had many firsts. It was the school’s first outdoor grad and its first live-streamed one. Doiron said he plans to live-stream future convocations.

It was the first time grads received their caps, gowns and stoles before the ceremony so they could take pictures at home. It was also the first time Doiron wore white gloves to touch the diplomas.

“I feel like a butler when I’m serving your diploma to you,” Doiron told grads during his speech.

Graduates drove throughout the surrounding neighbourhood in a parade before the convocation. Gold, blue and silver star balloons decorated vans, as did signs and streamers.

Winning speech

A Winnipeg graduate whose valedictorian video pulled in perspectives from across the globe and garnered more than 16,000 views online has won a scholarship.

Lauren Cogan won a Virtual Valedictorian Scholarship from the National Society of High School Scholars last week. She was one of 10 people to win a $1,000 scholarship after submitting a five-minute-long valedictorian address video. In the video, she shares footage from high school, and thank you messages and inspirational quotes from grads around the world. High school seniors from Qatar, Japan, South Africa, the United States, Thailand and 12 other countries participated in Cogan’s video.

A Winnipeg graduate whose valedictorian video pulled in perspectives from across the globe and garnered more than 16,000 views online has won a scholarship.

Lauren Cogan won a Virtual Valedictorian Scholarship from the National Society of High School Scholars last week. She was one of 10 people to win a $1,000 scholarship after submitting a five-minute-long valedictorian address video. In the video, she shares footage from high school, and thank you messages and inspirational quotes from grads around the world. High school seniors from Qatar, Japan, South Africa, the United States, Thailand and 12 other countries participated in Cogan’s video.

“I didn’t make the video necessarily to win a competition,” Cogan, 17, said.

She graduated from Oak Park High School this year. She said she made the video for her peers: students who’ve had their graduations turned upside down in the COVID-19 pandemic. In the video, high school seniors are reminded they’re not alone.

“If I could just help one (graduate), that’d be amazing,” Cogan said. “You know, 16,000 is also great.”

Cogan posted an Instagram advertisement looking for graduates to submit video responses to questions such as what advice they had for other grads. She set the target audience to “international” and received more than 80 submissions.

Cogan and her friend Reis Best spent hours sorting through footage and editing the video. Cogan shared the final product on Instagram and YouTube.

After the video came out, Cogan’s friend sent her information about the scholarship. She submitted it, and the rest is history.

Cogan said she’ll put the money toward her post-secondary education. She’s set to attend Huron University College in London, Ont., to pursue a business degree.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Parents fanned themselves inside their cars — there was no air conditioning as cars couldn’t run during the ceremony. Part of the stage’s black backdrop fell down early on, causing someone to stand near it, propping it up, for the rest of the event.

Nonetheless, graduates seemed happy.

“Everything was like short notice, but the fact that it’s this grand is just unbelievable,” said Sara Taddese, one of the graduates.

Taddese had attended the school since pre-school. She said she was proud to watch her classmates get their diplomas.

“Having everyone that you grew up with around you, and just having that faith and that trust in God, it definitely helped for sure,” Taddese said.

Mahmoud’s class voted her valedictorian as they took online classes at home. They still didn’t know they’d have a parking lot grad; they only knew something was in the works. Not having a convocation was something Mahmoud said she tried not to think about. She’s a “lifer,” having gone to St. Maurice School for 13 years.

“I feel like each individual person is one of my closest friends,” she said.

Parents voiced appreciation that their children could celebrate with peers.

“The fact that she’s happy… is so important,” said Mark Coates, the father of graduate Alyssa Coates. “I think it speaks to all the effort that the school went through. They really did a great job at putting this together.”

Staff plan to put on a dinner and dance banquet for the 2020 class in the fall.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Sara Taddese is all smiles after receiving her diploma.
St. Maurice School graduate Bini Demissle heads off with a big smile.
Bini Demissle receives his diploma.
Anastasia Giannakis celebrates with her fellow classmates.
Yeji Lee
Perry Cheung
Victoria Romero
Muslim Gillani
Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

Ruth Bonneville

Ruth Bonneville
Photojournalist

As the first female photographer hired by the Winnipeg Free Press, Ruth has been an inspiration and a mentor to other women in the male-dominated field of photojournalism for over two decades.

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