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Class of 2024: Teachers offer a word of advice to this year's graduates

With graduation just around the corner, North Van and West Vancouver teachers and staff members reflect on their own student experience

Graduation Day: One of those days that feels like it might never arrive and then all of a sudden it’s here, an open door leading to a world of new possibilities.

As students leave the safe confines of secondary education and embark on their next adventure, emotions will run high and will likely be a mixed bag. Rupi Samra-Gynane, principal of Carson Graham Secondary, encourages students to take a moment to pause and check in with their feelings, and to acknowledge that whatever is felt is normal and valid.

“Many students are likely experiencing excitement about the future and the new opportunities that lie ahead, while also feeling a certain amount of anxiety about the unknown. There is hope and anticipation, but also some uncertainty,” says Samra-Gynane.

“Whether they feel excited, anxious, hopeful, or uncertain, it’s all part of this significant transition in their lives. My message to them is clear: it’s OK to feel whatever they are feeling, and in time, everything will be alright.”

Feelings of uncertainty are understandable, with the route to the next chapter of life varying from student to student. For some, further education is lined up, which brings with it its own raft of questions and concerns. What subject is worth dedicating at least three years of study to? Should travel be a factor, or is studying closer to home more beneficial? How do you perfect the balance of studies and social life?

For others, what comes next are the first few, tentative steps into the world of work. Some graduating students may opt for an entirely different path: moving abroad, volunteering, interning or apprenticeships.

Leesa Alldred, career programs adviser at West Vancouver’s Rockridge Secondary, recommends students keep their eyes and ears open following graduation, whether working or studying.

“Take advantage of all opportunities presented to you, whether you are attending college or not this fall. If you are talking to someone or doing something that seems interesting, ask about it. People love to talk about their jobs,” she says.

No matter the choice, nothing has to be permanent, stresses Alldred.

“If you decide after the first year you don’t like your program or major, change. About 40 per cent of students attending university change their major at least once, some change multiple times.”

Embarking on a new role but worried it might not be the best fit? Don’t fear, according to Alldred, stats show that Generation Z will have 17 jobs over five different careers in their lifetime, so don’t be afraid to try different things.

“Many jobs available now will not exist in five years, but there will be lots of new jobs that we haven’t even thought of yet,” she says. “Who would have believed that someone would work as a drone operator, cloud architect or social media manager a few years ago?”

To those who are stepping into their first job, Mark Barrett, Sutherland Secondary principal, recommends networking as much as possible.

“Entering the workforce early has its advantages in terms of building out a skillset to put you in a stronger position later in your career, to have a great fundamental understanding of the way an industry works, and it can also put you in touch with some great industry mentors,” he says.

“Whether it’s working in a restaurant, or working in construction, there are skills you can acquire early that can help you later, and people you’ll immediately come into contact with can help show you the way to advance in your field.”

When Barrett graduated, he says he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do, but he allowed himself to follow the things he was passionate about.

“I followed what my interests were – history, travel, sport – and let my passions be my guide. I learned that I had the capacity to learn what I wanted to know, and that confidence in my ability to learn anything was more important than any single piece of knowledge,” he says.

Samra-Gynane reflects on her own graduation experience as one rife with growth and learning, yet, like so many others, she wishes she had taken more time to enjoy the moment.

“The world seemed incredibly complex at the time, but looking back, it was actually much simpler than it is now,” she says.

Above all, Alldred, Barrett and Samra-Gynane agree that the best piece of advice that can be given is to simply sit back and enjoy the moment.

“These next few years are typically a time when you don’t have a lot of responsibilities, so take advantage of this freedom, and have fun,” says Alldred.

This story originally appeared in a Congratulations Class of 2024 special print feature section of the North Shore News. 

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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