It was a fight that eventually paid off for the six Grade 12 students that graduated from École-sur-Mer in Summerside, Saturday evening.
While they could have left for larger educational institutions, the students persevered to continue their studies in French while surrounded by familiarity. Katelyn Singer is one of the school’s first-ever graduates, a valedictorian and recipient of the Governor General’s Award.
“For a small school, it has so many opportunities when it comes to playing sports, theatre, music or even travel abroad. You are almost always guaranteed a spot, unlike larger schools where you can sometimes feel overlooked, so attending this school helped develop my skills that much more,” said Singer.
Singer attended Jardin des étoiles daycare and École-sur-Mer since the age of two.
“École-sur-Mer was less like a school and more like a family. The teachers were always approachable, even if it wasn’t about schoolwork and rather something that was going on in your life. I felt comfortable talking to them,” continued Singer, who plans to study biology at the Université de Moncton.
“For me staying at this school was important to continue learning in French, and the next school [I attend] is to further that role. But I always felt comfortable here, so it was just an obvious choice for me to stay.”
When Joanne Bulger started as vice-principal 13-years-ago, there were almost 60 students in Grades 1 to 6. This September, there will be 200.
“It used to be a kindergarten to Grade 6 school, and once the students were finished they would move on to other schools. But the community and parents fought really hard to make sure the students could stay on here after Grade 6. Finally, we will witness the product of all that hard work,” said Bulger.
The emotional graduation ceremony performed in French saw P.E.I. premier Dennis King in attendance.
King said he was honoured to be there and show his support, even if his communication in French is “limited.” He encouraged the graduates to follow their passions, be active and engaged in their communities.
“Smile and enjoy the journey,” said King while admitting time passes quickly. “Your future is bright and full of opportunities.”
Principal Karen LeBlanc said the staff feels mixed emotions.
“All through the year we started with firsts; the first pictures of the graduates, first time asking for bursaries, first prom, first banquet, the first graduation gowns. Everything has been new for us this school year, so we are excited, happy and sad all at the same time because this is a historical evening,” said LeBlanc.
“It’s been an emotional and joyful year,” concluded Bulger.
The graduation ceremony kicked off at 7 p.m. with the school band and choir performing, and wrapped up around 9 p.m.
List of graduates from École-sur-Mer:
- Chloe Gallant
- Jaden Johnston
- Kaelyn MacLeod
- Callum Matthews
- Madison Orton
- Katelyn Singer