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Port Coquitlam high school grads launch week-long celebrations

Legacy projects, grad parade among events planed for grad week in Port Coquitlam

First there were tears and then there was a plan.

At least that’s how Riverside secondary’s graduating class of 2020 handled the news that their grad dance, following their traditional graduating ceremony would be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Instead of mourning the loss of their culminating celebrations, the Port Coquitlam grad committee got down to business with their sponsor teacher Raquel Chin and organized a week-long series of grad events.

In fact, it’s not so much as a grad recognition event as a graduation march, starting this week when Port Coquitlam council declares June 14-20 Grad 2020 Week to recognize the contributions, dedication, talents and determination of every single Port Coquitlam Grade 12 student.

“This is something we want to do for all students,” said Jonathan Szto, one of more than two dozen students on Riverside’s graduating committee.

It was no small feat to get this week organized, conceded teacher Raquel Chin, for one thing, students had to get over their disappointment that the traditional grad events they were organizing were now cancelled.

“We start in September and the build up to the things they want is huge,” Chin told the Tri-City News. “[But] they can’t have [that] right now… we have to turn a page.”

A bench for grads at Settlers Park.
A quote from Dr. Seuss is on the bench students have purchased as a legacy of their 2020 graduation year. - Submitted

The students quickly pulled themselves together and realized this was an opportunity to create a grad week and a legacy that will be remembered for years to come.

“I knew Ms. Chin wouldn’t let us go without anything,” said Holly Coughlan.

“This is a very inclusive school,” commented Jayden Bawden, who said it was fun to put together a plan for grad week.

This is how it will go down: On Monday, students will be photographed in their cap and gown, and on Tuesday, students will reveal their legacy projects, including a plaque on a bench at Settlers Park where students traditionally gather before grad and a magnolia tree they planted at the school. There will also be donations to Share Family and Community Services, KidSport and COVID-19 relief.

Riverside tree
Riverside graduating students from left, Jayden Bawden, Owen Deo, Cameron Hawker, Jane MacKinnon, Chelsea Fiddler plant a magnolia tree at the school as part of their class of 2020 legacy. - Submitted

On follow up days, there will be a salute to Riverside seniors, including posts on the Instagram channel @allthingsg20, and on June 18, a vehicle parade of teachers will wind its way though Port Coquitlam. Students will be encouraged to dress up in cap and gown and wave to their teachers as they pass by.

“Their grad song is Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ we want them to be dancing with their dog or puppy or what ever that is,” Chin said.

The grad finale is something all grads, community agencies, politicians and parents will be participating in as the Tri-Cities, School District 43 and even other communities support their grads with a social media grad cheer June 20, 2020 at 8:20 p.m. (or 20:20 following the 24-hour clock).

Grad 2020

That’s when grads are expected to make some noise and the community is asked to cheer on the graduates of 2020, an idea the students say was introduced by fellow Riverside grad Kennedy Ross.

And while this year’s graduation celebration won’t look the same as those in years past, it could be an even bigger event thanks to the legacy projects and the participation of the entire community.

As Riverside’s Szto put it, “This is something unique for some unusual circumstances.”