'The best of a tough situation': How Tommy Douglas Collegiate held graduation safely for families

As schools around the city look for ways to host graduation while adhering to provincial restrictions, Tommy Douglas Collegiate was able to hold its graduation outside of the school, allowing families to attend.

The event, which was held Wednesday morning, had groups of students come up in time slots, giving opportunities for family members to watch and take pictures all while keeping the number of people present low.

“It’s very intimate, families get to come up and be close, a lot closer than in a bigger auditorium of graduations in the past,” principal Dave Fisher said.

“I love that it’s at the school, which means so much to the students, families, and staff. It’s the best of a tough situation.”

He said the past two years have been tough with the pandemic, but his students have adapted well, giving him all the more reason to want to give them as best of a send-off as he could.

“We really wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to get them here and celebrate this outstanding achievement of theirs. It is a right of passage and we’re so glad we can be part of it and celebrate with them and make it as best we can,” he said.

Erika and Avery Stronski are twin sisters who graduated with honours, with Erika named class valedictorian.

They said despite the changes to the regular way graduation has been hosted, there was still lots of excitement in the weeks leading up to the event.

“It’s crazy, it feels surreal to finally be here after four years,” Avery told CTV News.

“There’s been a lot of excitement leading up to it. We’re just glad we could actually be here as opposed to a zoom meeting,” Erika said.

As the twins walked across the stage and received their diplomas, they said getting to have the most important people to them in attendance was a big deal.

“It made it a lot better, knowing that everyone we cared about in our lives was going to be here, which was really nice for quite a special occasion,” Erika said.

Erika and Avery said that adjusting to the pandemic and all the changes that came to their high school experience was tough, but according to their mom, they have taken it all in stride and it may help them in the long run.

“It wasn’t the same, and I don’t say it was necessarily worse, I think it was a little bit better. I think it better prepared them for university. They were able to get used to self-disciplined learning,” Andrea Stronski said.

As her daughters were handed their diplomas, Andrea said she was happy to be there in person to cheer them on.

“We’re pretty proud of them and very honoured to be a part of the celebration. Very glad that we didn’t have to watch it over a camera,” she said.