Principal Michael Adamski says École Secondaire Neelin High School is often referred to as the "small school that does big things."
"It is just that, a small place that affects big change and this phrase rang true as I signed your diplomas this week and read through the list of names that make up this year’s graduating class."
While roughly 90 high school graduates sat on the stage of the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Tuesday, donning Neelin's green and white colours and patiently waiting to receive their diplomas, Adamski explained why this group of students means so much to him.
It was just four years ago that he addressed this year’s graduating class for the first time in his new role as principal of Neelin.
"Four years have passed us by so incredibly fast and here we are today," he said during his address to the grads and in front of the hundreds of family and friends in attendance.
"I’ve literally watched all of you over the last number of years embrace challenges placed before you and concur these challenges with such tremendous confidence, desire, determination and success."
As principal of the school, Adamski had the honour of presenting all of the graduates with their diplomas. Among the graduating class was his niece Micaela Adamski, who graduated as a member of the Neelin Spartan Honour Society. The advanced program requires students taking eight courses to maintain a minimum 85 per cent overall average.
"It’s an international program that’s recognized all over the world," Micaela said. "It’s an advanced program that students can choose to go into … if you're looking for a challenge."
Despite the added challenge, Micaela said she feels she’ll be better prepared to attend Brandon University this fall.
"I compare myself to other people who are graduating and who were in the program and there’s such a big difference."
Her friend and fellow graduating honour society student, Shakti Shunmugam, agreed.
"I really wanted the challenge and to push myself, see my capabilities and where I stand," Shunmugam said. "Just so that I would be more prepared for university."
Both girls said graduating from a smaller high school definitely had its advantages when it came to making lifelong friends.
"It was great because it’s such a small graduating class you know everyone so everyone’s really close and it’s just a really friendly place to be and just a great way to end Grade 12," Micaela said.
"Whether you’ve been together for the past 13 years or just the past four, the friendships are just as strong as if you’ve known each other since kindergarten."
Shunmugam, who was born in South Africa and moved to Brandon in Grade 1, said she plans to attend the University of British Columbia this fall with hopes of eventually landing a position with Doctors Without Borders.
"I do a lot of humanitarian work, I volunteer and I just wanted to get into it," she said. "This past summer I was in South Africa and I worked with disabled children and they were homeless and that was for a non-profit organization and I learned a lot from that experience and I really enjoyed it."
Thanks to social media, she says she plans to stay connected with her classmates.
"I think we made really good friendships with everybody and it’s an exciting step because we’re going to finish this milestone and then go on to the next step of our lives."
The graduation ceremony also featured several performances by the grad choir, an original performance by graduate Liam Duncan, who received a standing ovation, and Carrie Bergen was presented with both the General Proficiency Award for the highest Grade 12 average and the Governor General’s Medal for the highest Grade 11 and 12 average.