A good argument can be made the last Rossland Secondary School (RSS) graduating class is one of the best ever in the school’s 61-year history, based on the merit of two of its 41 graduates of 2013.
Annie Cameron and Samanta Fleming epitomize the all around attributes of a student the school has been famous for producing, excelling in all facets of academics, sports, student government and in the community.
The two will earn their Grade 12 Dogwood with distinction this Friday when RSS sends off its Class of 2013, but they never thought they would also earn the distinction of being the last of their kind: an RSS graduate.
With the eve of Grade 12 graduation ceremonies RSS auditorium (5 p.m.), Cameron and Fleming looked back on their lives at RSS, and reflected on being the last class at the school, which will close its doors as a high school this June.
There was some illustriousness in being the last class to graduate from the high school, said Cameron, but it was bittersweet and contained a certain amount of pressure to do the school justice in its final chapter before the final bell tolls.
“There are so many people in the community who have come to every single grad ceremony because it is the RSS grad ceremonies, not because they know someone,” she said. “So, yeah, we need to get it right as the last class (for them).”
“I never really thought it would be us because they were talking about it for so long,” Fleming added. “It just seems so weird that we are the last ones. It’s always been this big hype for everyone, but now we are put in the spotlight as the last grads.”
Cameron was sad to see the public high school come to an end in Rossland, not just from an academic standpoint, but from an extra curricular one as well. There were so many decades of sporting excellence in Rossland, so many provincial titles, and so many of coaches that put a lot of time and energy into the school to make it what it was, she noted, but now will be lost.
“I don’t want to be the last person to wear my basketball jersey,” Cameron said. “In a lot of ways sports gave RSS and the city its identity. Rossland teams were known across the province.”
Cameron and Fleming have been in the spotlight throughout their school careers in Rossland with their academic work—both excelling in nearly all subjects—but in sports and other activities as well.
As members of the school’s senior basketball team—which made a trip to the provincial dance in March where the team finished 10th—student council and the Interact Club (a school community service club), Fleming and Cameron are examples of the type of people the small school produced.
Cameron also started on the senior girl’s soccer team—that recently hosted the single A provincial championships—while Fleming was instrumental in securing funds through a Columbia Basin Trust grant for school improvements, including chairs and couches for a lounge area in the school library.
The two have left a legacy at the school, one that will be lost when they graduate this Friday.
Fleming said the school was like a second home with its smaller, more intimate setting. Students felt a lot more comfortable with who they could speak to and she felt it made her a better person.
“And all the teachers, because there are only so many kids, they know you quite well and they can relate to you and understand where you are coming from,” she said. “It just made for a real nice environment to work in.”
Some of the teachers Cameron had known most of her life.
“You grow up with them, too. Some of the teachers have been here so long you’ve had them your whole high school career … and some of the teachers were even soccer coaches for me when I was seven,” she said.
Because of the small size of the school, Cameron found she did not only get to know the people in her grade, but also people in other grades. That served her well when she went overseas on a student exchange last year, and changed grades when she arrived back in Canada.
“So when I came back I already had friends,” she said.
A lot of teachers say the 2013 class was not afraid to show each other what they thought or felt, said Fleming, and noted that they all got along so well, a hallmark of most RSS classes.
Cameron and Fleming will be leaving the city to pursue the next chapter of their lives, with Cameron heading to McGill University in Montreal next fall to study biomedical and life science, with an eye towards possibly medicine.
Fleming will take the next year off of school and travel and see more of the world, and has already booked a ticket (June 24) to Europe to backpack around, moving on to Asia, then coming back to work a little and then more travel.
She wants to pursue degree in design, either architecture or on the film side of things, but she is “kind of undecided as well.”
Wherever their paths take them, Cameron and Fleming will be appropriately skilled to handle whatever is thrown at them, after being the first Grade 12 class in the province to graduate from the blended learning program.
Although the program had its ups and downs—and was a bit of a shock to get used to—both were grateful for the experience. Cameron was able to take all of the classes she wanted, including art, which wouldn’t have been possible under a regular schedule in such a small school.
“But you really had to teach yourself or learn to use resources,” she said, noting she acquired skills in self discipline and the pursuit of knowledge through blended learning.
“It just put more responsibility on you to get your work done and to learn, as opposed to having a teacher monitor your work,” Cameron said. “You had to be the one to ask the questions and then look for the answers.”
It also taught good time management skills, said Fleming, because there was no one making you go to class workshops and do the work.
“In that way it really prepared a lot of us for what we are going to be going into because we are not going to a bell system anymore to tell us what to do, where to go,” she said.
Because they didn’t have regular classes each day, it allowed them to organize school activities.
“So it kind of made it easier to carry through with events and anything you wanted to do that wasn’t school work,” Fleming said.
Cameron, Fleming and the other 39 graduates will now be leaving behind a school that was not just an institute of learning, but a place that was an extension of their lives, allowing them to be who they were, or find out who they were.
“It will be sad to say goodbye to RSS and know I am not coming back here in September,” said Cameron.
“I’m really sad to leave my friends. I know we will hopefully stay in touch, but I just feel my grad class was really close. There are also so very few of us, but we all got along really well, which makes it harder, too, to leave,” she said.
And harder to leave behind 61 years of history, the annals of a community and its people, when the last chapter of Rossland Secondary School is written on Friday.
The Class of 2013, the last RSS graduating class, will be on display in all their splendour this Friday, beginning at 3 p.m. with the grad parade (weather permitting).