Ottawa Community

Dear Grads of 2020: Messages from students graduating high school during a pandemic

Over the last few weeks, we asked the class of 2020 to share their experiences graduating during a pandemic, thoughts on the future, and/or reflections on this unusual last year of high school with CBC Ottawa.

‘You are all amazing. You are all strong. You can do this. You got this.’

With classes moved online, proms postponed indefinitely and graduation ceremonies off the table due to the pandemic, CBC Ottawa partnered with Youth Ottawa, a non-profit devoted to empowering youth voices, to do something special for the class of 2020.

Over the last few weeks, we asked the class of 2020 to share their experiences graduating during a pandemic, thoughts on the future, and/or reflections on this unusual last year of high school with CBC Ottawa.

We received many thoughtful messages from high school graduates of hope, reassurance and gratitude.

Messages have been edited for length and clarity.

Click the name below or scroll through the list to read some of these special tributes to the class of 2020.

Aleesha Parm-Pritchard, 24
St. Nicholas Adult High School

(Submitted by Aleesha Parm-Pritchard)

Dear Grads of 2020,

I am a recent graduate from St. Nicholas Adult High School and I just want to say congratulations to all of you for graduating and making it, especially through the pandemic!

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Heather Marshall for helping me and never giving up on me and pushing me to get it done to help me graduate! You're an amazing teacher. If you had her as a teacher then you would know how amazing she is!

And I would also like to give the Youville Centre staff and everyone that works there a big shout out for helping me and making sure I was there and getting my work done and helping me get to this point. You guys are awesome and the best! Youville supported me and the daycare there was amazing!

I plan to go to college and work with the elderly or people that have autism or disabilities.

You guys are awesome. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2020!!

Jonah Soriano, 18
Lester B. Pearson High School

(Submitted by Jonah Soriano)

Dear Grads of 2020,

This is a frightening time for us all. It's expected to feel sad, worried and at a loss, but you can turn these feelings into more positive messages.

"Everyone in my family practices social distancing." You're doing your part!

"I've been feeling overwhelmed, so I reached out to my good friend." Offloading your burden will relieve you and extinguish another person's worries!

These are some examples of what you can do to save everyone lots of trouble. Reach out, ask, and form solutions.

I want this message to spread to grads like you, your parents and the people you know who are essential workers. Look at the positive side and save yourself unnecessary trouble.

Medha Khorugdharry, 17
Immaculata High School

(Submitted by Medha Khorugdharry)

Dear Grads of 2020,

It's important to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Physically, emotionally, mentally. We aren't in our normal routines of life so make sure to keep it up!

As we finish our final year of high school, let's help each other when we get into university because not everyone will immediately be back into it like normal. Although some will, others will need help, time and patience. Let's help each other out.

I'll end my message with this: "To lose your path is the way to find it again." - BTS, Lost.

You are all amazing. You are all strong. You can do this. You got this.

Matteo Cianci, 18
All Saints High School

(Submitted by Matteo Cianci)

Dear Grads of 2020,

When this pandemic started, I was in a state of uneasiness about everything, schoolwork, the future and everything in between. However, this pandemic has taught me valuable lessons about being adaptable and resilient to what challenges life throws at you.

Upon graduation, I have accepted an offer to attend Algonquin College and pursue a career in architecture. As for other hopes, I hope I can eventually take the first steps toward independence and purchase a home and someday have a family of my own. Although these times may seem bleak, it is important for all of us to persevere, so one day our hopes become reality.

Christian Joshua Mata, 17
St. Joseph High School

(Submitted by Christian Joshua Mata)

Dear Grads of 2020,

First and foremost, I would like to thank our teachers who are always there for us, teach us, mentor us, giving us the extra help we needed. Thank you for giving us your time. You have and will continue to be a great influence on me. Thank you for the great work you did and the huge impact you made in young people's lives as our teachers. To my parents, who are always incredibly supportive and guide me, thank you so much. And of course I would like to thank our Heavenly Father for the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that I have.

Due to this pandemic, the graduates of 2020 will be one of a kind to remember, we will be in history. Of course, most of us or all of us are longing to walk on the stage to receive our diplomas. Unfortunately we cannot do it. We even missed the proms. This pandemic will not stop us to dream for our future. As the saying goes, the sky is the limit. We must spread our wings and soar high.

Congratulations my fellow graduates. We have worked hard to achieve our goals and this is not the end, it's only the beginning to seek our new vistas, dream new dreams, embark on who we are, embracing life with passion and keep reaching for our star.

Let us go for it, my fellow graduates. This COVID-19 will not stop us to achieve our goals and dreams of our life. Good luck and God bless us all.

Kimana Mar, 20
Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School

(Submitted by Kimana Mar)

Dear Grads of 2020,

Congratulations, you finally made it! This is our time to enjoy this moment of an amazing achievement and milestone. We are all uncertain about the future and what it will be like, but I want you to enjoy the celebration and possibilities for the future despite COVID-19.

I want each one of you to know that you have the power to change the world for the better. Change is happening now and I hope that all of you can see the positive impact of change. We're all in this together to change the future for us and the future generations.

Jacqueline Fadel, 18
St. Francis Xavier High School

(Submitted by Jacqueline Fadel)

Dear Grads 2020,

Although we find ourselves amid an unprecedented time, we can all agree nonetheless that this is a time worthy of celebrating and enjoying. A milestone such as this one is to be remembered for decades to come, so it is our duty to make the most of it in the moment.

In the end, we've come out winners, for we have finally overcome an exciting time in our lives as we get ready for a new chapter ahead. May we maintain high spirits during this wonderful time and cherish it as much as possible. Cheers to us! God bless! :)

Andre Bess, 17
St. Joseph High School

(Submitted by Andre Bess)

Dear Grads of 2020,

This was definitely not how we all expected our senior year to end, but I am proud of everyone and what we have all accomplished through our four years of high school. The future is bright and I can't wait to see what it holds for all of us. Good luck everyone!

Annika Whitford, 17
Glebe Collegiate Institute

(Submitted by Annika Whitford)

Dear Grads of 2020,

This year challenged us. Perhaps school ended in the least expected or ideal way. It may have interfered with our plans, our vision of the future and all our good byes, yet we adjusted to the pressures and crossed the finish line together.

No matter the circumstances, graduating is a great achievement. Unfortunately, this pandemic interlaced it's way into our generation, but it acts as a testament to the way you take charge of your own life and continue on. Maybe you have a plan, need a plan or are just not too sure yet. We spend so much time thinking about the future that we forget how much importance the present holds as well.

Through all this massive uncertainty, the world remains ours to shape. Given your perspective and resilience, ground yourself in values that stay because change is perpetual. Think positive, strive for improvement and remain safe.

High school fades in time, but memories last. This year we paused. We were pulled away from our constant routines and this gave us a moment to reflect on our environment, friends, family and the community. Today, you already started to lead, to become and to continue experiencing life. Break convenience. Do what is right and be proud :)

Aryan Bajpai, 18
Colonel By Secondary School

(Submitted by Aryan Bajpai)

Dear Grads of 2020,

Though we can't accurately set a timeline on how long this will take, the hope I have for our future is this: when this is all over, I hope the world will be a new place. A more compassionate place where we value our essential and frontline workers more. A place where we restructure and provide healthcare, financial support, and housing to our fellow citizens in need, permanently.

I hope we can become a more equal, equitable and just society. One that makes our economy sustainable, one that is more interconnected with each and every one of our fellow humans all across the globe, while also valuing our neighbours right here at home.

I hope we'll appreciate big things like health and science even more, and the little things too. Family. Friends. Our own mental health. Our hobbies. I hope we'll emerge a world ready to take on the climate crisis together, a world valuing human rights, and the future sure looks bright. But I hope it starts right now, right here with us as young, driven, ambitious leaders. Congratulations :)

Clarissa Parent, 18
Lester B. Pearson High School

(Submitted by Clarissa Parent)

I know this is not the graduation you expected. At the start of the school year, we had no idea we would be in a pandemic. We understand the disappointment of cancelling prom and grad ceremonies, but we are doing whatever we can to make it special for you.

Wendy Zhan, 18
Earl of March Secondary School

(Submitted by Wendy Zhan)

Dear Grads of 2020, Graduating during a pandemic is definitely very special, but not ideal. Many events are postponed such as the graduation ceremony and prom.

For the short-term future, I hope the winter term will be on campus for my university and I will thrive in both online and on-campus learning at university.

For the long-term future, I hope to have a happy life and become a physiotherapy clinic owner.

The second half of my last semester of high school is a very big change. It is all online, there are no exams but there are summatives, and marks cannot drop below marks earned before March break. I now know why people always say to start the semester with a strong mark. Overall, it is difficult to adjust at times, but it also is a nice break and there's more freedom in my schedule, which I find helpful.

Hold on a little longer. We're almost there. Congratulations in advance for your graduation, class of 2020!

Shaun Seneviratne, 17
St. Joseph High School

(Submitted by Shaun Seneviratne)

Dear Grads of 2020,

It is sometimes hard to come to terms with this situation and how we are not able to have that picture-perfect graduation we have always envisioned. Gone are our plans for prom, grad retreats, and most importantly, walking across the stage to receive our diplomas. Some may sit and sulk at this turn of events, but the energy I see online and within our respective schools is simply astonishing. From figuring out innovative ways to make our grad year memorable to connecting with one another even when we are physically separated. We, as the graduating class of 2020, have learned to adapt and to overcome this obstacle.

My advice to my fellow grads would be to spend this time and cherish it. Our busy lives will resume soon again. This period of quarantine allows us to learn more about ourselves and develop into better young adults. In turn, this will make us not only the leaders of tomorrow but stronger, caring, smart, effective and most importantly prepared leaders of tomorrow. Take this as a learning experience for the numerous things to come your way tomorrow.

Cheers and all the best in your endeavours, grads of 2020.

Jack Lamont, 17
St. Pius X High School 

(Submitted by Jack Lamont)

Dear Grads of 2020,

I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy throughout the rest of this unprecedented pandemic. COVID-19 has been a unique opportunity to learn what is important in life, and allowed us to build resilience and character as we move on to the next phase of our lives. I will look forward to celebrating Grad 2020 will my classmates in October. Best wishes to all.