Delivering a valedictory address to your fellow high school graduates can be a nerve-racking experience.
Charlottetown Rural High School valedictorian Brandon MacKinnon did it 11 times.
COVID-19 pandemic protocols meant the whole graduating class couldn't come together at once, but the school still wanted to provide an in-person graduation ceremony that families could attend. The solution was 11 separate ceremonies so each gathering would be small enough to meet Prince Edward Island public health guidelines.
MacKinnon gave his speech in person at each ceremony, though officials told him they could tape the first address and replay the video if he preferred.
"I knew what I signed up for," he said.
"I was the only student in the graduating class who actually got to see all 300 of my peers graduate, so I was really excited and I felt really privileged."
The ceremonies were spread out over two days, starting at about 8:30 a.m. and going through to about 2:30 p.m. Each speech was identical except the one he gave during the ceremony that included him as a graduate, during which he added a personal thank you to his parents.
In his speech, MacKinnon acknowledged the challenges of finishing high school during a pandemic, but he didn't want to linger on that issue.
"I ended by saying, 'COVID-19 sucks, but let's move on.' "
At the heart of his speech, he said, in the midst of a ceremony that often focuses on academic successes, was an acknowledgement that not everyone was graduating with the same goals.
"It's not the only path, to choose post-secondary or college. There's tons of other options out there. So I wanted to make sure I included all the students," said MacKinnon.
MacKinnon will attend the University of Prince Edward Island next year, majoring in political science, with an eye toward law school in the future.
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