High school students stepping out 

Community invited to see Whistler Secondary grads celebrate their future

You might remember baby sitting them.

And you’ve certainly seen them around town and working in the resort.

Even so, you might not recognize them tomorrow as this year’s Whistler Secondary graduating class put on the Ritz for the town’s first community reception.

"I think the grads are secretly hoping for a massive turnout just because it is their time to shine," said parent Debbie Smythe, who along with the prom committee has organized the reception.

Many schools in the Lower Mainland host community receptions. But this is the first time one will be held in Whistler. Smythe hopes it will become an annual event.

When Smythe first suggested it not everyone was sure, said prom committee member Becky Kleinman.

"But once we started talking abut it we though it was a great idea," she said.

"I think it will be nice for all those people who have seen us as we have grown up to see us as grads."

The Grade 12s and their escorts will meet at a Creekside home Saturday afternoon. Once they are organized, parents and friends will drive them in "cool cars" to the Westin Resort and Spa.

"And it’s absolutely wonderful that the RCMP will be giving the procession an escort (to the hotel)," said Smythe.

The students will arrive at the Westin around 6 p.m. They will alight from the cars onto a red carpet and be introduced in the grand foyer of the hotel by Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

Everyone in the community is invited to watch the grads and participate in a reception and, said Smythe, the community doesn’t even need to dress up.

"Come in whatever you’re wearing," she said. "It’s the kids who are the focal point here.

"It’s a time for (the community) to congratulate these students for having endured 13 years of schools.

"Previously this type of pre-prom reception was held at a parent’s home. But that has meant that… nobody else gets to see how lovely they look and how mature they are and how well they clean up. They are just stunning."

Smythe also made a point of talking to parents of elementary schools kids to make sure younger students come out to see the grads.

"It truly is motivational and inspirational for the (elementary kids)," she said.

"It gives them something to keep going for and something to look forward to and say, ‘sometime in my future I am going to do this.’"

Just under half the grad class has been together since pre-school in Whistler.

"My close friends and I have been here since we were born and we were thinking how great it would be to have all the people who care about us, who don’t want to come and sit through a five hour grad ceremony, come and see us all dressed up," said grad committee member Sarah Morden.

"It brings the centre of attention back to the youth of Whistler. Many of the people in the community have known us forever so to see us graduate is probably a cool experience and it says the youth are growing up and graduating right here."

Smythe also hopes the community reception will give a new level of respect to the high school students.

"You know they are often times still treated as if they were in elementary school and they resent that… from the adult community," said Smythe of the senior students.

"For them to see this respect level that they will get by having people sincerely congratulate them or give them best wishes will go a long way to correct that image."

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