Sylvan Lake’s Grade 12 students were rewarded for their hardwork and persistence through the pandemic during the April 8 annual Bibles for Grads event.
Volunteers from Sylvan Lake and area churches have kept up the tradition of presenting a personalized Bible and gifts to students for 27 years.
“The past couple of years have been especially hard on the young people,” said event committee leader Sharon Nielsen. “Because of COVID-19 and shutdowns and what seems like having taken every fun thing out of their lives, I think it is even more important this year to celebrate and make the students realize that they are a valuable part of our community.”
A total of 115 students attended the event and over 200 bibles were handed out. Sylvan Lake churches collectively fund the event and purchase and engrave the Bibles.
The mayor and members of the town council also attended the event in support of local students.
“It’s so great to see everyone come together for these kids, both from the churches and also how many gifts have been donated by our community in support of our kids,” said Coun. Kjeryn Dakin. “It’s so great to … have everyone together and connected and feel a little bit more normalcy moving forward.”
The committee was unable to host a banquet for the last two years.
Event volunteers struggled to deliver the gifts and Bibles to students during the first year of COVID-19, followed by an improvised drive-thru celebration last year.
“It was a great event and it kind of showed the community involvement … and it was a great opportunity for the grads to get together and celebrate one last time before school gets stressful and life continues,” said H. J. Cody High School’s Grade 12 student Amelia Balon.
Balon is preparing to pursue a career in engineering at the University of Calgary.
A volunteer from the Withrow Gospel Mission church Donna Nelson said the celebration wasn’t just for students graduating, but for all Sylvan Lake residents in Grade 12. The event also included Eckville students who attend H.J. Cody High School or Grade 12 students from the surrounding area who attend church in town.
Along with a turkey dinner, a performance by the Burman University Acronaires and a personalized Bible, each Grade 12 student received a gift donated by local businesses. Two lucky winners also received a longboard during the event.
Students received a range of gifts including a one-hour sea-doo rental, an emergency kit, a variety of gift cards, and other merchandise.
While every student may not be Christian, the event welcomes everyone. Students could opt-out of receiving a Bible if they chose.
“I think the event went really well considering that we didn’t even know if we’d be able to have it or not because of all the COVID restrictions,” said Nelson.
The committee only had a month to prepare for this year’s event and look forward to many more years of celebrating local youths.
When asked to share a message with the students, Dakin said, “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Never limit yourself and there are great things out there for you.”