More WRDSB Students Supported in Reaching Graduation and Beyond
For the first time in two years, families and staff from Huron Height Secondary School (HHSS) were able to come together in-person to celebrate graduating students as they walked across a real stage to receive their diplomas and take the next step on their chosen post-secondary pathways.
This was just one of many commencement and graduation ceremonies taking place across the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), as the Ministry of Education reports notable increases in both four and five year graduation rates at the Board.
In October 2022, more than 1300 people packed Marshall Hall at Bingemans Conference Centre in Kitchener. Jeff Klinck, the principal of HHSS, shared what it was like to be back together to celebrate the accomplishments of all the Huron graduates.
“It feels great,” said Klinck. “Especially after not having been able to have a live, in-person commencement for the past two years, there was a lot of excitement about being here today.”
Davis Gates was one of the students who crossed the stage that evening, and as he took a moment to reflect, shared what he would miss most about secondary school, and his time in the WRDSB.
“I think, the people,” said Gates. “The people really made it what it was. Everyone at Huron is just phenomenal.”
Now a month into studying film and television at DePaul University in Chicago, Gates has a renewed perspective on how his teachers helped to prepare him to pursue his dream of becoming a famous movie producer.
“The work is like tenfold, so I want to say thank you to the teachers for preparing us, because it really does help in the long run,” said Gates.
Jacquelyn Nguyen is another former HHSS student who received their diploma. She described the emotions she felt as she waited for her name to be called, and a moment that, for her, symbolized the culmination of all that she’s learned in the WRDSB.
“It’s kind of been like a whirlwind of emotions. When my name was being called, I was super-nervous,” said Nguyen. “I’m just super proud of myself for getting this far.”
She wanted to let all of the teachers who taught her know just how important a role they play in each student’s experiences at school, and how they set them up for success in the future. It goes beyond just academic learning, though, as a student’s achievement in the classroom is directly related to their well-being.
“I don’t think they realize the impact that they make on students' lives,” said Nguyen. “There’s always that one teacher that every student has a connection with, whether they’ve taught them or just had an impact on them when they weren’t feeling the greatest.”
Samara Washo also collected her diploma on October 21. She shared how she felt better prepared to study public health at the University of Waterloo, thanks to what she learned in the Health and Wellness Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program. The classes she took covered many of the same subjects and topics she’s learning about at university.
“I think it did give me a bit of an edge,” said Washo. “I do have knowledge about what we’re learning, so it’s really helping.”
Washo especially pointed out the head start the SHSM program offered her. The experiential learning opportunities available through the WRDSB SHSM program allowed her to build the skills she needed for the first year of university, before she got there.
“A lot of it is what I learned already with the Specialist High Skills Major Program, so it’s really easy to apply that knowledge,” said Washo.
These students are not alone in the feeling of being set up for success on their chosen post-secondary pathways thanks to what they learned in the WRDSB. The latest data from the Ministry of Education shows that more WRDSB students are successfully graduating secondary school than in past years.
The number of WRDSB students who graduate in five years increased 2.2% to 85.9%, and the number of students who graduate in four years increased by 4.7% to 76.5%. While graduation rates are just one benchmark used to ensure the effectiveness of efforts to support students, they are a good sign efforts are working.
As a school board, we remain committed to supporting all students to graduate, reach their potential and find success wherever life takes them. The WRDSB’s new Strategic Plan developed by Trustees through broad consultation, builds on the progress we have been making. Through this plan, we are increasing the focus on mathematics, literacy, and supporting the development of students’ capacity for compassion, creativity, curiosity and social responsibility.
We’re also committed to ensuring student voices are heard. We know that students who feel heard, who feel like they belong, and who find their learning relevant, perform better academically and have a greater understanding of how what they’re learning can positively impact the world.
This was certainly the case for Gates, Nguyen and Washo.
As the evening came to a close at Bingemans Conference Centre, Klinck reflected on advice he had for students who are taking the next step in their learning journeys.
“Keep working hard, it brings its own reward,” said Klinck. “Be a good person, all those good things that you were taught to do in Kindergarten, all apply to adulthood, too.”