On June 25, 2013, I woke up very late in the morning. I was reliving every moment of the dance in my dream while I slept, especially the goodbye hug I received from Tessa.
Dad made a special breakfast, consisting of poached eggs, toast, and maple cured ham. We had to get moving fast so that we could be at the Centennial Concert Hall by 2pm. I had a bit of trouble with my blue plaid shirt because we weren't sure if it would look good enough for convocation, but I said it would be fine because it would be under my gown anyway.
Once I was all dressed and ready to go, we got in the car and drove to George McDowell, my old school. I laughed at the memories of when I thought the school was absolutely ginormous. Now it looked kind of...small. We walked into the foyer and went down a short hallway (as a little kid I used to think it was long!) to get to the main office. Once inside, we dropped off our ticket for Mrs. Thiessen, who was my EA at McDowell from Grades 4-8.
We walked back outside, and we started driving to the Centennial Concert Hall, where the convocation would take place.
Once there, we entered the parkade (after a few tense minutes deciding where we should park) and it took just five seconds to get a spot once inside. We then walked back up to street level before I said goodbye to Mom and Dad.
I walked through a door at the back of the Centennial Concert Hall and entered a labyrinth of white-walled corridors. A number of my friends were already wearing their bright-red caps and gowns. Only now, the fact that this day was the actual graduation ceremony fully sank in.
I followed some of my friends who weren't yet wearing their caps and gowns to a large room. On one side was a table where we signed in and got our ticket saying which row and seat I had to go to. On the other side were several racks with our gowns and caps inside.
I took the hanger off and ripped open the clear plastic bag holding my outfit. I got into my gown all nice and fine, but putting on my cap took about a minute because I was trying to move it to the correct position and angle on my head. After shifting the tassel into the correct position on the right side of my head, I was good to go.
After about forty-five minutes of freely mingling and talking with as many of my friends as I could, we were ordered to head into a large room directly behind the stage. I could even see a mirror image of what was on the giant screen onstage! (The light from the projector shone right through the screen). We talked some more, and I got my picture taken with Tanjit, one of my good friends from McDowell and the President of Student Council.
I talked with my friend Mat (with one t) for a bit, and then we were organized into rows. There were about seven or eight rows of graduates. I was in the fourth row, but my ticket said Row 5. (No one sat in the front row.)
I watched the first three rows leave the room to head to their seats in the auditorium. I know I've said the word "surreal" a few times, but I can only say that it was surreal seeing my friends (a fair number who I've known for many years) heading to the room where it would be our last time ever to be in this 310-person group. (Okay, maybe more like 300 or 305 since a few didn't make it.)
After watching the tail end of the third row disappear around the corner, our row started to walk forward. We headed up a short ramp, walked through one of the portals, and filed down a long row of red seats. To my left, I saw more than 6,000 parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends all standing up and cheering. Cameras and iPhones were flashing wildly as we stopped and turned to face the audience. Glenlawn's wind ensemble was playing "Pomp and Circumstance" while the remaining three rows filled with graduates. I then felt a pang of regret when I realized that I never got to say a formal goodbye to my friends who were in Grade 11, and many of them were in the wind ensemble.
Once all the rows were filled, we sat down, and then the entire first row walked out to go behind the stage. One by one, the graduates from that row walked across the stage, received their diplomas, shook hands or hugged some of the other people there, and got their picture taken with Mrs. Nordheim before leaving and returning to their seats. I was intently listening to all of my friends' grad quips and having little celebratory moments in my head when my friends got their diplomas. For those who had awards, I clearly heard each award that was announced. Keep that in mind for later.
It was surreal (yeah I know, I said it again) to see faces that were so near and dear to me, knowing that they were getting their diplomas and actually graduating! (Holy $%#&!) To name just a few: Sarah, Ryan, Tessa, Michael, Tanjit, Tianna, Allison, Mitchell, Kristen, and Sabrina.
After what was probably at least an hour but felt like fifteen minutes, our row was finally called up. My heart started pounding like a jackhammer against my rib cage as I walked back through the portal, down the ramp, and into the room behind the stage. We formed a long line that led towards the doorway to the stage. One by one, more of my friends disappeared through the opening. I heard their awards being announced, which made the time go a tad faster.
Before long, my friend Mat was the only person left before me. His name was called up and I smiled nervously at him as he walked through the doorway. I saw my advocate, Mr. Kutcher, giving Mat his diploma. Mat then shook hands with the other people onstage before having his picture taken with Mrs. Nordheim.
In that split-second, my heart was racing as if I had just ran a full marathon. My whole body seemed to levitate two inches off the ground. I couldn't feel the wooden floor beneath me. I was practically walking on a cushion of air.
Lost in a dreamlike state, I walked through the doorway and onto the stage. A gigantic picture of me in my cap and gown, as well as my name and some stuff below it, was projected onto the screen. I had no idea what the lines below my name said, but I figured it must be something good. Mr. Kutcher stood in front of me.
Okay Matt, you got this: shake with the right hand, receive the diploma with the left hand, good, good, now shake hands again, oh boy, here's Mrs. Nordheim, okay, smile nice, there we go, and...that's it! Those were the thoughts racing through my head over the last twenty seconds.
Once I exited the stage and headed back to my seat to join Mat, I was clutching three envelopes in my hand. We then watched the rest of our fellow grads cross the stage for another hour and a half. In my head, I was wondering what those awards were. Or did I even get any awards? What did the text below my name say? Did they say whether or not I was nominated for the Pride of Glenlawn Award?
Finally, the last graduate crossed the stage, but not before my camera flashed the dreaded "Low Battery" warning. I missed quite a few photo ops because of that.
Mrs. Nordheim gave a wonderful speech after. Sadly, I don't remember the whole speech. There was one quote that stuck in my head, however: "Don't strive to be the best in the world. Instead, be the best for the world." I understood it as to place others before yourself in importance, and that giving and donating and helping other is better than greed. After an equally powerful speech from Tanjit, we were free to go.
We walked down our rows to the portals leading to the lobby. I began to grow more and more excited with each step I took. Everyone then walked out to the lobby of the Centennial Concert Hall. Once there, I was in the middle of a sea of people, and I edged myself through the crowd, trying to look for my family. It didn't take too long to see them waving at me from the upstairs balcony.
Grammie was the first to reach me. The rest of my family, as well as some of my friends, followed just behind. They congratulated me on my success and the fact that I won...
It came as an ecstatic shock to me to find out that I won the Seine River MLA Award, received a U of W entrance scholarship, and was nominated for the Pride of Glenlawn Award for the third year in a row! I actually received the Pride of Glenlawn Award in Grade 10, thanks to my applied/pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Long, for knowing that I worked feverishly in class and raised my mark 18% over the course of the second term! The first term mark was 44% and the second was 62%. I scored 77% on the exam, which was an achievement in itself!
The Pride of Glenlawn Award is a very prestigious award offered to those who show school spirit, are kind and caring people, and wholly embrace the values of Glenlawn. Only two students from each grade, one boy and one girl, receive the Pride of Glenlawn Award.
I then got my picture taken with my parents, Grammie, Grandma Gisele, Auntie Brenda, Jess, Auntie Helen, and Mrs. Thiessen. To my surprise, Kevin and Cameron (who I knew from preschool and kindergarten respectively) showed up. We also got our pictures together.
After talking for a bit, my party went downstairs to the lobby, where I had to hang up my gown. We got to keep our caps!
I ran into Mr. Kornberger while I was there, and as usual he had a lot of positive words to say to me. He treated me and the rest of the students as if each one was his favorite.
I know I've gone into enough backstories here, but I have to tell you one more.
History has been a relatively interesting subject for me when I was at George McDowell. Over the course of my time at Glenlawn, if I had to pick three of my favorite teachers for all four years, every one of my history teachers would show up on that list. In Grade 9, I had Mr. Restall, who always wore a suit to class. He was also a pretty funny teacher (the humorous kind, not the weird kind!). In Grade 10, Mr. Nowak was my teacher, and he taught us some very interesting topics, such as climate change, genetically modified organisms, and certain industries such as fishing. I scored 99% on the exam, and the only mark deducted from the total was not because I got the question wrong or didn't know the answer, but simply because I didn't have quite enough time.
I'll skip Grade 11 for now, so my Grade 12 teacher was Mr. Dyck. He taught World Issues, which was a fun and challenging course, covering topics like terrorism, war, religion, and of course, current events and news clips. It was very enjoyable, but we worked hard. Homework assignments were not too easy, and the tests presented a few challenges as well. As a result, while preparing for the exam, I wrote a fifteen-page study guide!
Now I'll get to the point. Grade 11 history was probably one of the most memorable classes I have had at Glenlawn. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't remember my other classes, but for some reason, I keep revisiting that particular class in my head, and even sometimes in my dreams.
There were so many reasons as to why this class was so special to me. First off, Mr. Kornberger is just an all-around great person and an absolute pleasure to be with. If my band teachers (Mr. Monson and Mr. Crowe), my Grade 10 math teacher (Mr. Long), my Grade 9, 10, and 12 science teachers (Mr. Storie, Ross, and Anderson), and my advocate (Mr. Kutcher) didn't exist, he would definitely take the cake as my favorite teacher. Since those other teachers exist, however, he'll just have to be tied with all the rest.
Second, as I've said before, this was where I met Tessa, who was one of the most special friends I've had at Glenlawn, right up there with Rand.
There was one other thing that truly stood out to me in my Grade 11 history course. This was an honors course, so it's harder and more demanding than the normal history classes. There weren't any troublemakers in this class; only the students who actually WANTED to be there were there. To get to the point, I will always remember the "cram session" just before the final exam. I arrived at the school at 7:30am. I thought I would be the first one in and everyone else would trickle in over the next little while. Nope! I opened the door to the classroom, and EVERYBODY was already there. That was a moment I will never, ever forget. It really showed just how devoted the class was to learning and to being all-around good people. It touched me like nothing else, and I honestly couldn't have been any happier.
That ends the flashback. After saying my final goodbye to Mr. Kornberger, we went outside and waited while my parents drove the car out of the parkade. We then drove to Santa Lucia, one of the best pizzerias in Winnipeg. Once we got there, we went up to the patio on the roof!
I had a Greek pizza. It was nine inches in diameter, and I ate 3/4 of the pizza! (I saved the last two slices for leftovers.)
After talking some more about my accomplishments, we said goodbye to everyone else and drove home, and it didn't take too long before I went to bed. That concludes my memoir about my Grade 12 graduation. It was one of the best moments of my entire life so far, and it's a moment that I will never, ever forget.