Mission Secondary School will be holding its graduation ceremonies at the raceway from now on. / File Photo

Mission Secondary School will be holding its graduation ceremonies at the raceway from now on. / File Photo

Racetrack to become annual venue for Mission Secondary graduation

Student cohorts will remain; school district keeps what worked well during pandemic

Graduation at Mission Raceway Park is here to stay.

What started as a pandemic fix has turned into a beloved venue for the annual celebration, said Mission Secondary Principal Jim Pearce.

“I don’t think we’ll ever change. I think it’s just gonna get better and better down there,” Pearce said. “We have the entire track – the whole 90 acres is basically us.”

Graduating Grade 12s used to travel to a church in Abbotsford every year for the commencement ceremony, but when COVID-19 health restrictions hit three years ago, Pearce said it was an opportunity to try something different.

He said it’s a challenge finding a big enough space for the 400 students, and some had disapproved of holding the event in a church.

“Parents and kids alike. It was not us. It’s not Mission,” Pearce said.

The first year did not go so well; they were rained out.

Now they have tents.

Staff have taken the lessons from pandemic ceremonies over the last three years and adapted the event to make it the most enjoyable experience possible, according to Pearce.

Something the parents loved was not having to spend three to four hours waiting for one moment, Pearce said.

So student cohorts crossing the stage at different times of the day – originally created due to health restrictions – will also remain in place, he said, adding there are no rules against staying or coming back.

“We have 75 come through at a time, and they really get their time on the stage. So it’s not really a rushed day,” Pearce said.

He added Mission Raceway Park’s sightlines are perfect for pictures, and there is plenty of parking.

The changes are the result of discussions with the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and other school groups, Pearce said, grappling with the question of “How do we make it better every year?”

The 2022 grads will be able to celebrate fully after three years of cancelled or downsized events. Pearce commended the over 40 teachers helping to organize everything.

“We’ve done a grad cruise, then dry grad, we’re doing prom, we’re doing commencement. We haven’t done all four of those events in the last two years,” he said. “Staff have worked tirelessly.”

The dry grad committee was able to fundraise over $30,000 so that all students could attend for free; over 300 showed up.

On top of that, Pearce said there are some large scholarships to give out this year, some as high as $80,000. He said around $500,000 in scholarships will be awarded this year.

“For a small school district, that’s pretty phenomenal.”

The last two year have been rough on everyone, Pearce said, and these celebrations have offered a “reset” for the students.

He recalled on the grad cruise, students seemed perplexed by the dance floor until a group of teachers started busting moves.

“I’m glad I had a lot of staff there that like to dance,” Pearce said. “Once they started, they were fine. But it’s just like, wow, they haven’t been doing this for two years … They haven’t been able to see what the previous Grade 12s have done.”

Prom takes place on June 16 at Newlands Golf Club in Langley, and the graduation commencement takes place on Saturday, June 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Graduation 2022Mission