Celebrating Our Graduates in the Time of COVID-19

Congratulations Graduates

Celebrating Our Graduates in the Time of COVID-19

Graduating from secondary school has always represented a milestone achievement. The culmination of more than a decade of learning, growing and hard work in pursuit of personal growth and accomplishment. In the time of a global pandemic, taking time to recognize and celebrate graduates in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is more important than ever before. 

With this in mind, in the Fall of 2020, staff from across the WRDSB came together to help create virtual Commencement ceremonies, customized for each of our 16 secondary schools. These replicate the experience of an in-person graduation ceremony, while prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff and families.

Ben Jaklic and Kylie Penticost, both Communications Officers in the Communications Department, have spearheaded this effort coordinating this board-wide initiative. Jaklic, a creative specialist, created custom video templates and motion graphics for the commencement videos, while Penticost has been helping secondary school staff collect the necessary resources, such as student photos and video messages, along with organizing the logistics of the board-wide graduation celebration. 

The experience is not only a virtual one. Graduates were offered the chance to purchase a Graduation Souvenir Package, which includes a gown, cap, tassel and year charm in school colours, in addition to the physical diplomas each graduate received. Students, staff and families were invited to share in one magical grad night, across the WRDSB, on Friday, November 27. Each graduating student received customized login information to access their own school’s event.

The scale of the task at hand becomes clear when contemplating that each of the 16 videos Jaklic has built and edited, features the names and photographs of each of our 4,216 secondary graduates. That works out to 230 hours spent editing, rendering, exporting and uploading the final products, so that our students, staff and families can celebrate the accomplishments of our WRDSB graduates. The file size for the project, clocking in at more than 1.6 terabytes, or more than 1600 gigabytes, is akin to that of a major motion picture. 

Jaklic’s dedication to getting the job done has meant long hours, working into the nights and on weekends, to help ensure WRDSB grads each have a memorable experience to mark the milestone. For him, there’s no question that the effort is well spent.  

“It’s worth it,” said Jaklic. “It means that, despite COVID, our graduates will have something to look back on when they’re remembering their time in the WRDSB. How they made it to this point, even with the added challenges of the pandemic.”  

For Penticost, this project hits close to home. As a graduate of Forest Heights Collegiate Institute, and with a husband who is a secondary guidance counsellor, she knows just how much celebrating this achievement means for students and staff alike. 

“I remember the pride and excitement that my peers and I felt reaching that milestone,” said Penticost. “It’s so much more than just receiving your diploma. It’s the sum of your learning journey up until this point. It has been an honour to work on such an important project. I cannot thank all the secondary school staff enough for all their hard work and time they, too, have put into this special celebration.” 

From across our district, the WRDSB came together to celebrate our secondary graduates virtually – each and every one.

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