It was fitting the theme for the final graduating class of Rossland Secondary School was vintage Hollywood because it was vintage RSS.
The Friday graduation ceremony was thick with the nostalgia accumulated over the 61 years the high school resided in the building, and it cast the last 41 Grade 12 graduates of the school into an even more intense spotlight.
And they rose to the occasion, speaking beyond their years about the significance of the day, looking every bit the fine men and women Rossland has produced without fail over the life of the school.
“It’s monumental,” said graduate Brogan Pastro. “This gives us the opportunity to not only be the people that defend a legacy but uphold what RSS means, and it’s just so surreal to have come so close together as a family and as a student body this year.”
The day held many special moments aside from the nature of it being the last RSS graduation class, said graduate Alex Reid, and the significance of that designation sometimes was lost in the excitement of graduating high school.
“This school has stood for so many years that to be the last class to ever graduate here is just sort of dawning on us now,” he said. “It’s the end of an era, but at the same time, the elementary school being here is sort of a good thing.”
“It’s not the end of an era but it’s the beginning of a new chapter, per se,” Pastro added.
The new chapter for Pastro will be written in Switzerland next year when begins his academic journey into law, while Reid heads east to Montreal’s Queen’s University to undertake the uphill climb to medicine.
The two were part of the first and last class to start school in the new millennium and finish school.
“For the next 987 years they will all follow you,” said superintendent of schools for School District 20, Greg Luterbach, in his address to the graduates. “You are trail blazers.”
The school year was also highlighted by not only the debate and the struggle with the school district to keep the high school program in Rossland, but by the introduction of blended learning.
Considered the future of education, Rossland was the first school in the province to adopt the program and instituted it throughout its top three senior grades. It came with growing pains, as did the process to save the school, and that pain was not lost on Rossland’s school trustee and former mayor, Gordon Smith, who fought in vain to keep the school.
“This past school year has been a challenging one, and I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you all for persevering through uncertainty, for your hard work, for your love, and for your sacrifice,” he said in his address to the graduates.
There were many tears as the graduates were presented with their Dogwood certificates for high school matriculation, as they were called one by one and strode across the front of the gymnasium before a crowd of over 500 people.
It was a tender but appropriate ceremony, with no mention of the closing of the high school program in any of the speeches, including vice principal Mike Vanness’ address to graduates, and valedictorian Jaala Derochie’s address.
The graduates themselves expressed their gratitude for the time and energy they were given by the school’s faculty. In a special presentation, graduate Patrick Soltice said the graduating class wanted to honour teacher and coach Rick McKinnon for all that he had done for the students and for the school.
“Rick has been a grad sponsor for 20 years and we wanted to present him with a token of our gratitude,” Soltice said. “He has inspired us both as people and as athletes. The students he has coached over the years would like to present him with a gift.”
The gesture brought everyone to their feet and they applauded as McKinnon approached the podium and embraced Soltice.
McKinnon had coached over 65 teams at RSS over the course of 17 years.
With the ceremony coming to a close, and the end credits running on the last graduating class of RSS, principal Karen Lavender put the onus on the graduates to make good on their honour as the last class.
“Now it is your turn to begin affecting the world by your actions,” she said. “So you need to start taking action … not watching YouTube.”
- Aboriginal Education Bursary: Adam Pommier
- Area A & B Directors of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary: Brogan Pastro
- Carlin Levesque Athletic Scholarship Award: Sally Steeves
- City of Rossland: Tyler McKay
- City of Rossland-Health Awareness Award: Brenan Moroney
- Colombo Lodge: Rachel DeRosa
- Columbia Basin Trust: Samanta Fleming and James French
- Columbia Power Corporation: Nicholas Foli
- Emcon Services Inc.: Kenzie Milligan
- Fraternal Order of Eagles#10: Kenzie Milligan
- Girl Guides of Canada – Columbia Division: Rachel DeRosa
- Grads of 2013: D.J. Wallis, Eric Lizama and Kelley Humpherys
- Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association: Tyler McKay
- Katrine Conroy, MLA, Kootenay West: Nicholas Foli
- Kiwanis Club of Trail: Annie Cameron and Jaala Derochie
- Klister Klub: Sally Steeves and Samanta Fleming
- Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital Doctors Bursary: Hannah Barrett and Alexander Reid
- Kootenay Columbia Principals & Vice-Principals Assoc.: Samanta Fleming
- Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union: Ethan Barnes, Jaala Derochie, Kaela Zimmer, Kelley Humpherys, Tyler McKay and Xander Sterpin
- Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union Scholarship: Beth Aiken
- Kootenay Savings Credit Union: Brenan Moroney
- McEwan & Co. Law Corp.: Brogan Pastro
- Monashee Medical Clinic: Patrick Soltice
- Red Mountain Academies: Sally Steeves
- RHC Insurance Brokers: Patrick Soltice
- Robert Prough Memorial Scholarship: Cassidy Smith and Wyatt Henderson
- Rossland Community Branch Nelson and District Credit Union – Aaron Allibone Award: Jeanine McKay
- Rossland Community Branch Nelson and District Credit Union – Aspire Award: Sally Steeves
- Rossland Community Branch Nelson and District Credit Union – Dan Burnett Award: Samanta Fleming
- Rossland Council for Arts & Culture: Kaela Zimmer
- Rossland Fire Department: Maggie Woodhouse and Brenden Thatcher
- Rossland Health Care Auxiliary Society: Sara Lapointe
- Rossland Lions Club: Jaala Derochie
- Rossland Mens Slow Pitch: Brenden Thatcher
- Rossland Rotary: Jonas Houlden
- Rossland Skidders “Digger Davis” Scholarship: Jill Armour
- Rossland Trail Minor Hockey Association: Justin Kruchen
- Royal Canadian Legion Branch #14: James French, Kenzie Milligan, Melissa Dedemus, Rachel DeRosa and Wyatt Henderson
- RSS Art Award: Samanta Fleming
- #RSS Drama Department Award: Maddie Taylor-Gregg
- RSS Music Leadership Award: Brogan Pastro and Alexander Reid
- RSS Nutrition Committee Music: Eric Lizama, Jonas Houlden, Kaela Zimmer and Mitch Zanussi
- RSS Secretaries Scholarship: Annie Cameron, Ethan Barnes, Hannah Barrett and Zack Spicer
- RSS Sport Scholarship: Annie Cameron, Ethan Barnes, Jeanine McKay and Patrick Soltice
- Selkirk College Arts & Science: Melissa LaFace, Julia Mason
- San Martino Club Award: Rachel DeRosa
- Sherri Gawryletz Scholarship: Samanta Fleming
- Sisters of Colombo Lodge: Maggie Woodhouse
- Smokettes Women’s Hockey Team: Sally Steeves
- Teck Trail Operations: Annie Cameron
- The Boxing Day Classic Scholarship: Jaala Derochie
- United Steelworkers Local 480: Kenzie Milligan
Major school awards
Renato Magnone Memorial Award (outstanding commitment to athletics): Jaala Derochie and Kaela Zimmer
Don Saare Memorial Award (exceptional student and leadership): Brogan Pastro
Eddy Shepherd Memorial Award (academic endeavour): Jeanine McKay
John MacMaster Award
The major award of the school. It is prresented to the graudating student who has prresneted exceptional commitment and dedication to Rossland Secondary School in all areas of their high school life: Annie Cameron
Sherri Gawryletz Scholarship (for integrity): Samanta Fleming