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Ceremonies and parades all part of 2021 grad

2021 sees old traditions return with some 2020 events adopted
2020 Haines Junction graduates line up for a photo on May 27, 2020 as part of a celebration parade through the village. While the St. Elias Community School is able to host an outdoor grad ceremony for 2021 grads this year, it will also host a parade and group photo as it did last year. (Marty Samis/Submitted)

Every graduation is a celebration to be remembered.

For the Class of 2021, that celebration will include the long-held ceremonies and traditions that mark the end of their public school careers, along with some newer pandemic traditions.

COVID-19 dramatically changed graduation in 2020 with events like prom, and cap and gown ceremonies largely cancelled. Instead, socially distanced events like parades were held to honour grads. Some schools also hosted ceremonial-type events where individual graduates had a time to come, walk the carpet and collect their diploma from school officials with photos taken.

There was, however, no full ceremony where graduates could gather together.

This time around, while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place and gathering sizes are limited, the territory’s COVID-19 response unit has approved ceremonies at many schools. Guests are largely limited and there will be no mingling to follow the ceremonies.

In an email correspondence, education spokesperson Erin MacDonald described the plans across the territory as a mix with some schools opting for an outdoor ceremony, others opting for indoor cap and gown events and some choosing to celebrate in other ways.

In Haines Junction St. Elias Community School will begin their celebrations with events that came out of the changes that had to be made in 2020.

“We have brought in some new traditions,” school principal Maggie Mann said in a June 1 interview.

A parade will begin at the FasGas station in town and make its way to the convention centre. Like last year, a photo of all nine grads socially distanced will be taken. As Mann pointed out the community has the benefit of the backdrop of the mountains for a group photo.

The Canadian Rangers will fire a salute in honor of the students ahead for the ceremony at the convention centre.

While numbers are limited, the school was able to provide eight invites to each graduate for the ceremony with about another dozen invited guests to take part.

Along with the ceremony and parade, the town will also feature banners for each graduate along the highway through town and each family is set to receive a gift card from the grocery store to purchase all the goodies they need to celebrate the graduation.

While graduation still looks different than it did before the pandemic, Mann noted many are pleased there will be a formal ceremony this year.

“Our grads were pretty open,” she said noting the work of students and staff to plan for this year’s graduation, everyone knowing how quickly plans might have to change.

Meanwhile, at F.H. Collins Secondary School in Whitehorse, vice-principal Stephanie Main highlighted plans that will see a cap and gown ceremony held at Takhini Arena on June 10 with prom and safe grad on June 11.

“I think they’re feeling very fortunate,” Main said of the Class of 2021. “They’re quite excited.”

As Main pointed out, many who are graduating this year are friends with those who graduated in 2020 and are well aware of all that was cancelled last year.

While ceremonies will be part of the 2021 grad for F.H. Collins graduation, each graduate will get just two invites to the ceremony at Takhini Arena and there are strict rules around each event.

Main noted the school booked the arena to ensure there was enough space that family bubbles can sit together while being distanced from other families.

Knowing many graduates will have other family members wanting to see their graduate receive their diploma, the ceremony will be live-streamed for those who can’t make it.

And unlike pre-COVID-19 grads, there won’t be a reception following the ceremony. Rather, when graduates exit the building they will turn in their cap and gown and head to their vehicles.

Meanwhile, for prom and safe grad, attendance will be limited to those graduating from F.H. only with the festivities to be held at the school.

Yukon First Nations grad is also a long-standing tradition for First Nations graduates throughout the territory.

This year, a ceremony will happen at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on June 11. In-person attendance will be limited to graduates only, but it will be live-streamed on Facebook.

After graduates walk across the stage they will exit to a tent outside where they will receive a pre-packaged meal from the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate, receive grad gifts and can take part in a photo booth.

As it was noted in an information handout about the First Nation grad events: “We absolutely understand that everyone wants to participate in celebrating the 2021 YFN graduates’ achievements. We’re organizing a vehicle parade to provide this opportunity.”

The parade, which has been organized with the Klondike Cruisers, will get underway June 12 at noon at the Canada Games Centre parking lot. It will make its way through McIntyre, Riverdale, Downtown and Porter Creek, ending at Porter Creek Secondary School.

The events are among many happening throughout the territory to celebrate the Class of 2021.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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