AUBURN, NS - He wants to thank his fellow students and graduates, the teachers and the staff for filling his high school years with memories that he’ll cherish for life.
18-year-old Oliver Cadrain of Welsford found out on June 26 that he would be the valedictorian for the 2018 graduating class of West Kings District High School after receiving a call from the guidance counsellor. Cadrain achieved the highest grade average in the graduating class based on a graduate ranking algorithm used at the school. He said he was surprised and quite excited to receive the news.
Cadrain has a strong record of academic success, having achieved the highest overall average in grades 10 and 11. He wasn’t certain he’d have the highest average in the graduating class though, and wondered if he was in the running for valedictorian.
“It’s not something that I’ve been stressing about but it was something that had been on my mind for a few days,” Cadrain said.
He recognized that there were other graduates who achieved similar academic success and were in the running for valedictorian. Cadrain said they’re all good friends and they’ve been speculating on who would have to write the speech. He’s honoured to be representing the class at graduation.
He started working on the speech the morning of June 27, a little more than one full day before having to deliver it at the graduation ceremony. Cadrain said he collaborated with teachers and fellow graduates and the process was going “as smoothly as it could with so little time leading up to the big event.”
He said the honour of being named valedictorian is purely academic but it means a lot to him, having worked very hard during his high school years. However, he recognizes that grades are just numbers and there are a lot of other students who do well, have achieved success and would be just as worthy of the honour.
“It’s something I’m proud of receiving but it’s something that I try to accept quite humbly,” Cadrain said.
For the speech, he focused on digging up some memories from the past four years at West Kings that have significance to him and his fellow graduates. These relate to athletic achievements by various teams and individuals, achievements in the music program, a drama production and more.
Cadrain said he would tie these memories together with the fact that times are changing for the graduates and they’re entering a new chapter in life.
He said he was quite caught up in everything leading into graduation, including preparing the speech, and the emotion had yet to really resonate with him. Cadrain said he thinks it’s going to hit him in a few days.
“I’ll be a little bit sad because I have, certainly, some friends that I may not see for a long time or I may not see again,” he said. “There’s a lot of memories and a lot of good times I had in high school and it’s something I’ll try to hold on to and look back at with a smile on my face.”
Cadrain will be studying Civil Engineering at McGill University in Montreal in September. He said it’s been something he’s been interested in for a very long time. He recalls building toy bridges and various structures as a boy.
Cadrain said he may come to a different conclusion about what he wants to do with his life at a later point but he’s young and has plenty of time to switch paths.
Making school, community proud
Principal Donna Griffin said the school community at West Kings is extremely proud of all 156 members of the 2018 graduating class. In excess of $300,000 in scholarships and bursaries were awarded and they had the largest number of universities ever to attend their graduation service.
“This is my very first year as a principal and I am so proud I can barely handle it,” she said.
Griffin said she had earlier been told that they were going to watch to see how long she could keep her eyes dry. She described the class as unique, diverse, down to earth, kind and polite. Griffin has been at the school as a resource teacher and vice-principal for a number of years and watched the graduating students grow and develop since the beginning of Grade 9.
She always tells the students, “high expectations, high results” – meaning that if you expect the best of yourself, you’ll achieve great things - and “enjoy the journey” because “you’re going to go on a great one.”
Griffin urges the graduates to stay positive and not to be afraid to make mistakes because that’s how you get better at things. She said the lives of the teachers, staff and administrators at West Kings are enriched by the young adults that make up the student body and this year’s graduating class.
“They just fill my heart and I love when they come back to visit us to tell us where life has taken them, where has their journey gone,” Griffin said. “We are a big family here and we pride ourselves on that.”