Saint Andrews – In a full gymnasium, with one of the biggest classes in recent years, 35 students at Sir James Dunn Academy are now officially graduates. following a ceremony
at the school Friday.

After an address from Superintendent of Schools, Zoe Watson, SJDA principal David O’Leary welcomed Debby Lord, supervisor of the Community Youth Activity Centre in Saint Andrews – chosen by the graduating class to deliver this year’s address to the graduates, as “one of our community’s greatest volunteers.”

“Her warmth, caring nature, and her love for our community are some of the reasons she’s been invited to speak here today.”

Upon a loud, warm, welcome to the stage, Lord joked she “lost more bets to this class than any class ever,” and pulled on a Montreal Canadiens jersey – while topping it off with her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs hat.

Lord began her speech telling the audience when her youngest daughter graduated from SJDA, she was excited to only have one more graduation to attend.

She related when she mentioned this at the youth centre, a student said to her, “What do you mean? You have all of us to go through.”

“So yes, I will be here for every kid who graduates Sir James Dunn Academy, because you guys are awesome,” she told the packed gymnasium.

Prior to receiving multiple standing ovations, Lord spoke of the importance of being kind and respectful, as well as being happy.

“Don’t count the days, make the days count. And that’s so important you guys, make each day count – live life to the fullest. Be happy, and if you’re not, do what you can to be happy.”

Kate Scott/Courier
Presenting Sir James Dunn Academy’s newest graduating class. The class of 2017 gathered for a group photo in front of the school following the graduation exercises Friday.

Looking at the graduates on the stage, Lord joked if they were counting down the days “all you’re counting down is no more home cooked meals, no more ‘can I have the keys’, no more allowance, no more laundry services,” and gave some sage laundry advice: “don’t separate your whites from your colours.”

“You save up five bucks, and go buy a jar of peanut butter, because when you get sick of no home cooked meals, and cafeteria food, that jar of peanut butter is going to save you.”

After the laughter from the graduates, and the crowd subsided, Lord said “I’m so proud of you all, and I feel so honoured to be speaking to you guys right now,” and a standing ovation was encouraged by graduate Spencer Thorpe, as he urged the crowd to their feet.

“It takes a community to raise kids, and you’ve got to be there for them, and help them as much as you can.” – Debby Lord

Following the ceremony, Lord admitted she wrote a speech but abandoned it when she got to the podium.

Nearly speechless, Lord said “it was pretty cool,” and admitted it caught her off guard when she received a standing ovation.

“I see a lot of these kids go through school, I love these kids,” Lord said, and said she felt honoured to have the opportunity to be their guest speaker at their graduation.

“It takes a community to raise kids, and you’ve got to be there for them, and help them as much as you can.”

After the presentation of prizes and diplomas, Molly Basque, valedictorian, closed the ceremony with her address.

Beginning her speech thanking those who have supported the graduates over the course of their young life, Basque told the crowd of steps she learned in her time at SJDA to becoming a person, and shared them with the audience.

“Find your voice; your expression is an art. … Remember you are an artist, no matter how much the world tries to hammer it out of you.

“Step two: apologize. If the cost to heal a person is only your pride, just apologize. Life is too short; … you’d be amazed just how liberating saying sorry really is,” Basque said, and named the third step as forgiveness.

“Step four: accept that flatulence is funny. Of course not always appropriate and sometimes unpleasant, but if you can’t laugh, if you’re more offended by a fart than by war, pollution, famine, racism, sexism, and the wrongfully imprisoned; if a fart offends you more than any of that, than you are a not a person and cannot be helped,” Basque said, to the response of laughter from the crowd.

Basque went on to step five, which she related to the audience that “love is vulnerability, but certainly not a weakness.”

“It is a backwards currency, and the only way to prosper in it is to give more of it,” she said, and added step six, was to not fear being hated.

She related to the audience though “you will be hated regardless,” she encouraged those to be confident, and fearless enough to “be who you want to be.”

“Step seven: be savage and thankful, and continuously in awe of the power each of us graduates presents. We proved the non-believers’ wrong and made something of ourselves,” Basque said, adding choices were the eighth, and final step.

“Your choices belong to you so intimately they will never leave your side. Good or bad, they will remain; an antique that shows the future who you were and what you stood for.”

Basque concluded her speech with memories of the graduating class, and quoted David Bowie.

“And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they are quite aware of what they’re going through.”

Major award winners:
D. Paul Logan Award – Leah MacIntyre
Jostens Award of Excellence – Erin Clarke
Governor General’s Award – Erin Clarke

Kate Scott/Courier
Caleb Pendleton, one of 36 of Sir James Dunn Acdemy’s newest graduates, has a hand from teacher Jane Pearson preparing for the graduation ceremony at the school Friday.
Kate Scott/Courier
It looks almost too good to eat – Sir James Dunn Academy graduates pause for a photo with the class cake prior to graduation exercises at the school Friday. From left: Megan Cross, Quincey Griffin, Cullen Johnson, and Devyn Jackson.
Kate Scott/Courier
Debby Lord (the temporary Habs fan) was chosen by Sir James Dunn Academy’s class of 2017 to deliver this year’s address to graduates. Lord is pictured with Craig Carson, Erin Clarke, and Lacresha Kerfont.
Kate Scott/Courier
Members of Sir James Dunn Academy’s newest graduating class pause for a group photo prior to the ceremony at the school Friday. From left: Dylan Groom, Aidan Steiner, Zack Forgrave, Jordan Cunningham, and Caleb Pendleton.
Kate Scott/Courier
They’ve adjusted their caps, and now they mean business – Megan Cross and Quincey Griffin take a selfie minutes before the start of the Sir James Dunn Academy graduation exercises Friday at the school.
Kate Scott/Courier
Molly Renée Basque, Sir James Dunn Academy valedictorian, pauses for a photo following the graduation ceremony with her parents Marianne Clift and Maurice Basque.