Stacia Panko, a 2017 graduate of Clearwater Secondary School, opens the door to the school’s Pit as she waits for the start of commencement ceremonies on Friday evening, June 23. Panko went on to be the biggest recipient of scholarships and bursaries during the event. Photo by Keith McNeill

Clearwater Secondary School grads celebrate their achievements

Commencement ceremonies were held Friday evening in the school gymnasium

By Keith McNeill

The theme was “A Celebration of Achievement” and that’s precisely what happened during graduation celebrations at Clearwater Secondary School last weekend.

The commencement ceremonies were held Friday evening in the school gymnasium while the prom took place Saturday evening in the Sportsplex.

A total of 38 students graduated from the school.

This compares with 29 last year, 46 the year before, and 32 in 2014.

This year’s 38 total does not include 41-year-old Jaime Greene and her 21-year-old son Austin, who both met the requirements for adult Dogwood diplomas through the Flex program at the school. Combined with Jaime Green’s two daughters, 19-year-old Jessica Greene and 18-year-old Aireal Greene, that made four members of one family who graduated this year.

The two older Greenes gave credit to Linda Ludbrook for helping them get their Dogwood diplomas.

Also taking part in the ceremonies although not officially CSS graduates were Alli Borrow and Nathen Weninger. Both grew up in Clearwater and were members of the class until recently. Borrow has been taking her secondary school in the Okanagan as she attends hockey school, while Weninger has been studying in Kamloops.

The grad class chose teacher Brent Buck to be their special guest speaker.

People should try to develop their physical aspect (making, building and doing), their intellect (the “mind”), and their spirit (the “heart”), he said.

Using charades, he asked the students to guess what word he was referring to. These were:

• Listen: “I want you to listen to yourself. Trust your intuition,” he said.

• Look: “Don’t just look but observe.”

• Learn: “Learn about the brain. Study your physical body.”

• Lean: “Accept help and also be someone others can lean on.”

• Leap: “Take a chance. We need people who are trying different things.”

• Love: “Love the natural world and take care of it.”

• Laugh: “But not at the bad luck of others.”

• Lend: “Be a volunteer.”

• Lift: “Try to make the world a better place to be.”

• Live: “Create a strong, healthy existence.”

Buck, who grew up in Clearwater, graduated from CSS, and is now retiring after 33 years as a teacher, received a standing ovation from the class and the audience after his speech.

Principal Darren Coates, in his welcome to those attending, warned parents that their job is not done yet. Housing and education are both getting more expensive and young people need more assistance longer than before.

During his five years as principal, Coates has always emphasized the importance of perseverance and grit. In recognition of this, the members of the grad class each gave him a small piece of sandpaper as they shook his hand at the end of the ceremony.

Town councillor Merlin Blackwell brought greetings from District of Clearwater. He encouraged the students to stay connected with the family they find in life – not just their biological relatives but also the people they meet who help each other.

In her greetings from the school board, school trustee Shelley Sim advised the grads to listen to the small voice within themselves.

School District 73 superintendent Alison Sidow gave tribute to Brent Buck for his 33 years of service, and to the other teachers in Clearwater for the good job they did educating the members of the grad class.

Overall, the Clearwater community contributed $38,100 in scholarships and bursaries to be distributed during commencement.

Stacia Panko, this year’s students council president, was the top scholarship and bursary winner, taking home a total of $8,750.

For more details on who won what bursary or scholarship, see the article on page A17 inside.

For photos and more details about the commencement ceremony and prom, go to or see the special supplement in next week’s issue.