Assiniboine Community College students celebrated, in a modified fashion, as they crossed the graduation stage at the Victoria Inn to mark the end of a post-secondary chapter.
More than 1,300 students from the 2020-21 fall class of Assiniboine Community College (ACC) participated in a series of walk-through graduation events in Brandon, Dauphin and Winnipeg.
ACC president Mark Frison said graduation day is always an exciting event at the post-secondary. He noted the recent ceremonies mark the second consecutive year students have participated in modified events to adhere to COVID-19 public health measures.
“We had this last year. It was our intention to prioritize pictures, parents and pals — the things students most want from the grad,” Frison said. “It’s more to be able to dress up in their gowns, receive their diplomas and get pictures taken with their friends and family.”
In Brandon, the graduation walks were separated by individual schools at the post-secondary. Graduates were able to come to the Victoria Inn between certain hours to receive their cap, gown, diploma and photo with Frison.
Business students were at the Victoria Inn Thursday afternoon with trade, nursing, and multi-school celebrations taking place later in the week.
Frison said he appreciates the walk-through graduation ceremonies because it allows more family members to attend the event and celebrate students’ accomplishments. The shorter timing of the event can enhance the experience for some, he said, because it can better accommodate people’s working schedules and adapt more easily for those with accessibility issues.
One of the major concerns at ACC was creating a special ceremony for students that was more involved than an online event.
In-person ceremonies capture the feeling of the moment, Frison said, and ACC worked diligently to bring the traditional feeling and ritual of the event to the walk-through ceremony.
“This does give them the ability to feel the gown, to get those pictures,” Frison said.
He added, valedictorian greetings have been pre-recorded and included on the ACC website.
Frison said the post-secondary hopes to return to a traditional ceremony with the pomp and circumstance honouring graduate’s achievements as soon as public health measures allow.
The accomplishments of grads were all the more impressive as many completed almost their entire post-secondary academic careers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be able to persevere and still get that diploma or certificate through all that is a huge accomplishment,” Frison said.
The day for Krista Hall, a graduate of the School of Business in the administration and accounting program, was made all the more special as she received the Governor General Academic Medal award.
The Governor General’s Academic medals are awarded at four distinct levels — bronze at the secondary school level; Collegiate Bronze at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver at the undergraduate level; and Gold at the graduate level. Medals are presented on behalf of the governor general by participating educational institutions, along with personalized certificates signed by the governor general.
The Governor General Medal is given to the person with the highest academic standing in a diploma-level school.
Hall said she was proud and humbled to receive the honour. When she received the phone call in September she would be receiving the medal, Hall said, she was rendered speechless.
“I was just in shock, I couldn’t believe it,” Hall exclaimed. “I worked really, really hard, and I’m really glad all my effort has paid off.”
Hall dreamt of college her entire life and it feels amazing to have achieved that goal, she added; the governor general’s award was just the icing on the cake.
Hall hails from Virden and has been working in the accounting field for three years. She is continuing her studies at Athabasca University to get a degree in accounting and her goal is to one day become a Chartered Professional Accountant.
Hall said she appreciates what she learned throughout her two-year program at ACC, but noted it has been a chaotic time to be a student due to COVID-19.
During her first year, she met many new people and made great friends and connections. She added her teachers were especially incredible. However, COVID-19 threw a wrench in her school activities during her second year as she moved to online learning which presented a unique set of challenges.
“I got through it and it all worked out in the end,” Hall said. “I [haven’t] even met a lot of people in my grad class because most of it was online. I never got to have a conversation and connect with them which [kind of sucks], but I still made some great friends.”
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun