Communication skills of graduating high school students are put to the test in a presentation of their life so far.
On March 8 and 9, over 120 Grade 12 students in Vanderhoof donned semi-formal dress to present their achievements and future plans to panelists in Nechako Valley Secondary’s library.
As part of the required course Graduation Transitions 12, the 15-minute presentations provide an opportunity for students to reflect on the significance of their accomplishments and plan for their transition into the world, said Erin Baker, career programs coordinator.
“We talk about it like an interview,” Baker said. “They need the skill in applying for schools, or jobs, or other opportunities like mission trips…dress appropriately and communicate effectively.
“There’s definitely a big sigh of relief when they are done, and a general sense of, ‘Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.’”
In the presentations, students choose three areas of accomplishments to focus on — such as work and volunteer experience, sports, fine arts, and travel — with supporting documents including trophies, portfolios, and project samples. One brought in antlers from hunting expeditions, another brought a pet sheep, and another brought math work as an example of overcoming challenges.
Travel experience may be an opportunity for students to learn to track money, speak to people in a different language, or be on the plane for the first time, Baker explained.
“For a lot of kids, [the presentations are] out of their comfort zone,” she said.
Markas Nielsen, Grade 12, regards the presentation as a reflection of who he is, he said.
“That I’ve actually done what I did, and to see that what I did all accounted for something later on,” Nielsen said.
He explained that he was not nervous about the content of his presentation, but the unexpected component.
“They always ask something you haven’t thought of,” Nielsen said. “I’m fairly good at talking about me, for better or worse.”
It’s important for people to be able to talk about themselves because others want to know who they are and what they do, as he learned from the graduation presentation, he said.
“People are legit interested in learning who you are,” Nielsen said. “They just want you to look back, and see what you have learned.”
“It’s about understanding that it isn’t bad about talking about yourself. It’s you and you know yourself the most.
“You should be able to talk about it with pride.”
Connecting with the community and younger students
Graduation transition presentations first started in Vanderhoof in 2006, when students were offered the option and 30 volunteered, presenting to each other in a classroom.
Now, at the end of each presentation, a panel comprised of one teacher or administrator, two community volunteers, one Grade 11 student, and two Grade 8 students may ask students follow-up questions regarding topics such as back-up plans or regrets.
“We are really lucky in the amount of time and money that community members give to the students,” Baker said.
Up to $102,000 of local scholarships were provided to graduating students last year.
NVSS principal Ken Young says it’s an opportunity for community members to see what teenagers in the community are capable of.
“Students have been involved in important things and accomplishments,” Young said. “Every year we usually have people shocked at what they hear.
“It shows how diverse our student population is: sports, community involvement, great writers, humanitarian service.
“Everybody brings different things and has something to tell.”
The presentations allow Grade 12 students to learn what potential employers may be interested in knowing, and they also provide a learning opportunity for Grade 8 students, who were invited to listen for the first time this year, Young added.
“Now they can go into Grade 9 knowing what different things they can look forward to and get involved in,” he said.
For parent Kari-Lee Derksen, it’s an opportunity for her to see how the kids have grown from childhood to later years, becoming responsible citizens, she said.
“Each and everyone, whether it is a weak or stronger presenter, has so many neat ideas,” Derksen said. “It will be interesting to see where they end up in the future.”
For Zech Nightingale, Grade 11, it was encouraging to watch the presentations.
“It gave me some ideas on what to do next year, some reference points, some things I can aim for, what went wrong and what went right,” Nightingale said. “Some insights on where I want to be; I’m planning how I can do this.”
For Grade 8 students Meghan Heyd and Lexi Persson, it was informative.
“You get to see beyond grade 12…there’s actually something after that,” Heyd said. “We can see what we can do when it’s our turn.
She learned to take advantage of opportunities now and start earlier in post-secondary planning. “To look into courses now instead of in the last year,” Heyd said. “Cause once you’re past, there’s no going back.”She looks to go into film school and will get more involved in extracurricular clubs, she said.
Persson finds that the presentations allowed her to see the students’ lifestyle and see what they have been doing. “[Seeing] from their presentations, they are ready to move on to university,” she said.