Celebrating Graduates

~Cheryl Perry

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost —the birthday of the church. We have been celebrating birthdays in different ways during this time of COVID19—not gathering for parties, doing drive-by celebrations, etc. This Sunday we are recognizing some other people who have had a significant moment in their lives—graduation—happen in this time of physical distancing and school closures.

It was my enormous pleasure to spend a few minutes with each of these young people this week. I asked them about their experiences and what it has been like to graduate during a time of pandemic. What was different? Disappointing maybe? Memorable?

Graduation is such a threshold moment—between what’s been and what’s to be, between what’s been studied, learned and accomplished, and all that there is still to learn, discover and do.

?It is so good to mark this moment with celebration, although it will not be in the same way we have in previous years—with corsages and a cake after church at coffee hour. It is good to celebrate having further to grow—to note a mile-marker on the longer way and take joy both in the distance traveled and the distance yet ahead.

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate with the young people connected to our congregation who are graduating!


Greta Friesen, daughter of Carla and Randal Friesen, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. She will begin studies this Fall at UBCO in Fine Arts and Psychology. Although courses will be offered online this is not a big stretch for Greta as she has accomplished much of the last two years of high school online because of health problems. Despite these challenges, Greta has consistently made the Principal’s List for high grades. Her art has been featured at the Kelowna Art Gallery and, as well, she does her own screen printing, pottery, painting, sculpting and dye-making. She gave a TEDx talk in 2017 entitled, “A picture is worth a thousand words, right?”


Jon Gaba, grandson of Susan Sullivan and Frank Sliskovic, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Quantum Physics from UBCO, one of only 10 completing this program. His plans are to go to work in his field, probably at the coast but like everything else, nothing is certain right now.


Colin Hillmer, son of Nancy and Eric Hillmer, graduates from Rutland Senior Secondary. Colin plans to attend Okanagan College this Fall in the General Science program and then transfer to UBC (Vancouver) to complete a BSc in Forestry. He plans to specialize in Wood Products Processing which focuses on using the renewable resource of wood for purposes that have traditionally used non-renewable resources such as concrete and steel.


Alexander James, grandson of Trent and Jean James, has graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Software Engineering. He will be continuing post graduate studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. This is a picture of Alexander that appeared in the U of C yearbook. He was the top runner on the Calgary running team.


Lindsay Maier, daughter of Brenda and Greg Maier, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. She will go to UBC (Vancouver) to study Kinesiology and compete with the UBC Thunderbirds Varsity Track & Field team. Lindsay graduates with a 97% average and was accepted and offered scholarships to six universities. She received the Kelvern Celtic Society Bursary for her past involvement in Irish Dance, as well as other bursaries and academic awards that will be announced June 18th in the online commencement ceremony.


Corrine McLeod, daughter of Shelley McLeod, has successfully completed her General Business Diploma and Human Resources certification though online courses at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario. She is willing to move to wherever the job is, so is now submitting applications in several provinces and looks forward to full-time employment.


Fraser Newbury, son of Peter Newbury and Margaret Newbury-Jones, graduates from Kelowna Secondary School. Fraser has received a $2000 President’s distinguished merit scholarship (awarded to students with a 95% average or higher) and a matching scholarship from the University of Waterloo where he has been accepted into the Honours Mechanical Engineering Co-op program. He has also received a bursary from Interior Savings. Fraser expects to remain in Kelowna this Fall as first semester courses are offered online.


Graham Phillips, son of Linda and Jeff Phillips, graduates from Rutland Senior Secondary. Graham is on the Principal’s List and will be the recipient of a District wide scholarship award which will be presented during the RSS online commencement ceremony. He will continue studies in the Animation Diploma Program at Okanagan College where he had started to take preparatory courses at night before the college closed.