When the ACE class of 2013 stepped out in cap and gown Wednesday, it seemed like the whole world stood up and applauded.
A letter was sent from the Royal Family.
A representative arrived from the Ministry of Education, along with the area’s MLA, Laurie Throness, and the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C. Yukon executive director.
Even national media followed suit, showing up in Agassiz in droves with cameras in hand.
Everyone crowded into the Legion’s hall — a home-away-from-home for the local alternate education program — to congratulate the school’s one dozen graduates for their accomplishments.
Their ages ranged from 18 to 89, marking a first in this province and setting a new bar for seniors everywhere. While honorary Dogwood certificates are sometimes awarded to seniors in this province, three of the graduates with ACE dug in and actually did their homework.
Cathleen (Kay) Eddison is the eldest of the trio. While she was a diligent student in the 1930s, with the preserved certificates to prove it (see inset photo), she left school before finishing Grade 12.
“I am so happy to be here, to finally complete what I had left undone more than 70 years ago,” she told the packed crowd. “I now know it is never too late to learn.”
She said she’s aware the recognition of her achievement is because of her age, and that other than mathematics, the work wasn’t “too difficult.”
And besides, she said, smiling, “I’m old, but I’m proud of every year.”
Eddison and her classmates, Maureen Baker and Adriana Peters, have all been featured heavily in the media throughout the week for their accomplishments.
And on Wednesday, they were congratulated by the ministry of education, via Janine Hannis, the Education Officer for Adult and Alternate Education.
The seniors education program developed this year at ACE is being watched around the province, Hannis said. And while she often advertises adult education for anyone aged 18-89, “we have some examples now.”
The ministry has done some research, and hasn’t found any records of seniors receiving their Dogwood through course completion. So Hannis wasn’t missing the opportunity to take part in the celebration; she had the women’s Dogwood certificates couriered to Agassiz, and hand delivered them.
Much of the rest of the cap and gown ceremony carried on in ACE tradition. Karen Nelson, Fraser Cascade superintendent, read from a children’s book about literacy, and then passed on a book to each graduate, in the hope they share the love of reading with a young person in their life.
In keeping with Sto:lo territory tradition, Nelson Leon opened the ceremony with traditional drumming, and as each grad crossed the ‘stage’ they received a blanket.
And the rounds of applause were enormous, as the students — the young and the elders — finished a chapter in their lives.
“Way to go, Mom!” said Maureen Baker’s daughter.
Baker had enrolled in courses despite having had two recent cataract surgeries.
Each student has their own unique story, and their own personal reasons for enrolling at ACE.
When Austin Belanger stood up to address the audience, he said there were times he walked away from school and never thought he’d come back.
“I’m glad I stuck around and got it done,” he said.