STAR CITY — In unprecedented times, there was an unprecedented graduation for the five-person Class of 2020 in Star City.
Members of possibly the first all-male graduating class in school history were able to celebrate that achievement with a family-only in-person ceremony at Star City School on Aug. 22.
It’s a unique memory for graduates Justin Broeckel, Sam Dancey, William Ross, Colten McAvoy and Luke Pearl, and for school staff and guest speaker Dwane Burke, who made up the rest of the exactly 30-person gathering.
“It is nice to get us all together,” Broeckel said. “It is actually an important ceremony…. It is nice having a small class, because we are able to do this with the amount of people that we have.”
Principal Rob Unruh, who acted as emcee for the ceremony, was happy to have a chance to close out the final chapter in their high school years.
“It’s just different,” Unruh said. “After grad is done you have wrapped up the previous year and then you have two months to reset. Now, we have got a couple of weeks. Either way, the time of year doesn’t really matter. It’s just nice that they had the opportunity.”
Graduation isn’t the only milestone they’re celebrating either. The entire class is going on to post-secondary education, and Unruh thought that was worth celebrating too.
“In a way, it is nice having it now because next week they move onto college,” Unruh said. “We get that transition in, we transition them out, and they are all going to post-secondary.”
Instead of a valedictorian, each member of the class shared their memories of teachers and parents. Dancey’s parents, Sandra and Shaun Dancey then shared a toast to the graduates.
The class had a reputation for having fun at all times including getting caught having dance parties.
“We usually liked to skip class and come to the stage when no one was on here and make forts and stuff from the high jump mats and watch Netflix. We said we were in the bathroom but we were actually just doing that,” Broeckel said.
Broeckel added that all five graduates were especially close.
“We have been together for pretty much our whole school careers so we know everything about each other,” he said. “We can always hang out and everything like that. It’s fun.”
The guest speaker was outgoing teacher Dwane Burke who returned specifically for the occasion.
There were traditional greetings from dignitaries with Premier Scott Moe, Minister of Education Gord Wyant and Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty sending greetings by video. Luke Perkins, chair of the North East School Division board of education, had his greetings read by Unruh. Perkins, who is from Star City, said he had to write his greeting instead of winging it as is his usual fashion.
Dancey was a multiple award winner taking home the Star City Royal Purple Math Award, Star City School English Award, Star City School SRC Highest Academic Average and one of the two draws for the Star City Elks, which he split with McAvoy.
The InsuranCentre Science Award was won by Pearl and the Cheyenne GM Second Highest Academic Average was won by Broeckel. The Town of Star City Bursary will be chosen at a later date.
Ethan Perkins, who was part of the graduating class of 2019, received the Governor General’s Award but was unable to attend.
According to Unruh shutting down school in March was a challenge to him as both a parent and an educator. It led to him having compassion for all of the parents of Star City School.
“I could totally empathize if you didn’t have the time as a parent to keep them going in school. I mean, there is no shame in that because it was busy. It’s not the way we would like to finish the school year but circumstances just dictate how we reply. “We just have to be flexible and we will have to be that way in the fall again.”
The community neighbours the Star City Colony, where there were some cases of COVID-19 earlier this year, so there have been other challenges.
“We are still figuring it out and we have got protocols in place, but it will all depend on what happens in the area as far as what the school year looks like,” Unruh said. “Hopefully we can keep doing a good job like we have done, and we will be able to do a graduation ceremony in spring for the 2021 grads.”
The entire class of 2020 is pursuing post-secondary education with Dancey studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, Ross studying Archeology at the University of Saskatchewan, and Broeckel attending the Edwards School of Business. McAvoy will play hockey with the Carrot River Outback Thunder and study at Cumberland College, while Ross will be studying at SaskPolytech in Prince Albert.
“Congratulations to the boys and best wishes in their future. They are taking on a new challenge in post-secondary. It is going to be busy and it will be different but I also know they have all done some online [learning] and my understanding is that they will be doing online for university, at least for the winter term, so they will have that advantage,” Unruh said.