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‘It’s definitely a weird time’: Dual SSS valedictorians reflect on unconventional final year

Tre Schmidt and Jared Lytle shared valedictorian duties for the SSS Class of 2020 grad
Smithers Secondary School (SSS) Class of 2020 valedictorians Tre Schmidt (left) and Jared Lytle (right) prepare for a virtual recording of their speech to fellow classmates on June 17 at SSS. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

If there’s one thing 2020 hasn’t been, it’s ordinary.

Sitting in a classroom after filming a virtual valedictorian speech to be played at this year’s graduation ceremonies, Tre Schmidt and Jared Lytle both expressed a sense of appreciation for being chosen by their peers to represent a final school year marred by COVID-19.

“It’s definitely a weird time,” said Lytle. “Obviously this isn’t how the speech usually goes [but] I think that’s kind of cool that we’ve bended the rules a bit and made our own way.”

After the graduating class first selected Schmidt in a vote for this year’s valedictorian role, the Grade 12 student initially turned it down.

“I really didn’t think I deserved it, because I didn’t really do anything with planning grad or anything,” he said. “So I denied at first, then we did another poll and Jared won, and he didn’t want to do it. And we were like, well, we both don’t want to do it, so let’s do it together.”

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The duo said they decided to go forward with the speech because they felt it was important to represent a graduating class which had experienced such a historical year.

“I think it’s important that we still have a speaker and we’re still doing lots of the traditional things, even if they’re a bit different,” said Lytle.

They said the switch to online learning was not without its challenges but that eventually they both enjoyed the flexibility the virtual classroom offered. “It wasn’t very structured, there was no bell, go, do this,” said Schmidt. “Once I got used to the whole online thing I really liked it because it gave me a lot more time to just stay at home and just do whatever I wanted,” added Lytle. “You didn’t have to wake up at a certain time and you could sleep in a bit.”

They said the social implications of school being closed were what they missed most.

“I think the hardest part was not being able to see all your friends, you know?” said Schmidt. “You’re allowed to be close to a few people, but it’s kind of like one little small group.”

The speech, which will be played at SSS’ three grads held this weekend, ends with a quote the two selected to represent their experience at the school: “All things come to an end, but memories last forever.”

As for their favourite memories? Both pointed to a nine-day canoe trip they took last year as part of the school’s outdoor education class.

“That was honestly one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had,” said Lytle. “Just being with that group of people, it was all people I was pretty close with, me and Tre, it was a long and pretty tough trip but it was so much fun.”

Schmidt said he would also remember having fun in class and his interactions with various staff members. “I think some of my favourite memories come from Chemistry 12 with Ms. Thornton, because she’s strict and I could always get under her skin without crossing the line,” he said.

Perhaps appropriate for dual valedictorians, the two friends (along with five others) will be moving to Calgary together, where Lytle plans to begin post-secondary education in the business field and Schmidt said he has plans to work and travel.
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