Raymond Gowlett, a physical education and health teacher at C.A.S.S. (Central Algoma Secondary School), decided that the pandemic was not going to take yet another milestone event from the graduating class at his school. It started with his own child, now a young woman and also graduating, and wanting her to have her chance to walk across the stage to get her diploma, traditionally viewed as the culmination of a high school career, successfully completed.
When word came down that, once again, there would be no formal event to commemorate this occasion, Gowlett was intent on creating the experience for her. Ready to use a public stage in his community to celebrate her achievement, she mused that her friend may want to do so, as well. From there, it became known that several graduates wanted to participate in this homegrown ceremony. As the numbers grew, Ray began to worry about restrictions and large gatherings.
As necessity is the mother of all invention, Ray then had the thought of creating a portable stage–truly, a travelling grad ceremony. With the support of his fellow teachers and donations from local businesses, Gowlett constructed the stage, complete with school colours and a podium and took this show on the road. Quite a commitment and a feat unto itself, there were 72 graduates in all who wished to be included, and, as C.A.S.S. is a feeder school, serving several small communities, the territory to be covered was substantial.
“The route spanned as far West as Echo Bay, and as far East as Thessalon First Nation.” said Gowlett.
Thanks to Gowlett’s ingenuity, each student was able to walk across the stage and receive their diploma, providing proud parents, and grandparents, that all-important photo opportunity to mark this very special moment. This is proof positive that caring, commitment and dedication are key components to coming out of this pandemic intact, and able to remember some very special moments that even lockdowns and restrictions could not steal.