Graduating into a strange world

One student reflects on finishing high school during a pandemic

Ibrahim Amin is a secondary 5 student currently studying at École Secondaire Saint-Maxime. Photo: Ibrahim Amin 

Many say it is the most important year, both socially, academically and emotionally. Secondary 5 is the year students prepare for entry to CEGEP and higher education, when they make friendships that can last a lifetime and when they celebrate their achievements and growth over the past 5 years.

This is in addition to the ceremonial traditions that celebrate students’ successes, namely graduation ceremonies and prom celebrations where students can gather for a final time. 

But amid a continued pandemic, many of these long-standing traditions have been radically changed or outright cancelled. Although the government recently announced it would allow end-of-year celebrations to move forward, many schools have decided to forfeit them anyways.

But how are the students that are going through this first hand feeling about the matter? We asked one student to find out. 


Ibrahim Amin is a secondary 5 student currently studying at École Secondaire Saint-Maxime in Laval. He loves all things mathematics and science and will be attending CEGEP Bois-de-Boulogne next year in the health sciences program. 

Although he found the year challenging, it is clear Amin faced its many adverse situations with optimism and tenacity. 

“It’s been quite a particular year since it’s the first time for all of us, for the teachers and the students,” explained Amin. “None of us were used to this type of situation, so it’s really unique,” he added.

Those challenges were just as logistical, like attending online classes with a bad internet connection, to social like not being able to see friends and live a normal secondary 5 experience. 

“This year was great, despite everything that has happened,”

No regrets

Although the year was challenging, Amin does feel he got a great experience in his final year of high school, even with its challenges. “Overall, it was pretty fun and I got to meet new people this year,” explained Amin.

Amin recognized the importance bestowed on secondary 5, as much for academic reasons like preparing for CEGEP, but also in terms of creating interpersonal connections and having fun.

“I wouldn’t change anything, even if I was asked to attend school with no COVID regulations,” said Amin. “I’d say this was pretty fun,” he added. 


While Amin felt the school year itself went well, he is cognizant of the things he will be missing out on. “It’s pretty sad that we won’t have an actual prom,” said Amin, adding that students had “been dreaming of this since secondary 1.”

He said that he loved the meaning behind it, as an event where students can gather and celebrate for a final time. He nonetheless understood the reason for the changes brought this year. 

“We are going to have a reunion, like a final reunion for all the sec. fives,” explained Amin of the smaller celebration that the school will host on Jun. 25. “It’s not as big as the prom, but I’m happy about it,” added Amin.  

Too little, too late

The provincial government had finally permitted these types of celebrations on Jun. 8 while presenting further deconfinement measures. 

As of Jul. 8, It would allow up to 250 students to celebrate outdoors without physical distancing or masks. This was decided on the premise that most students would have received their first vaccine dose by then. Although well-received by some, many schools said it had arrived too late.

In Park Extension, École Lucien-Pagé said it had not changed its plans for celebrations after the announcement, as it had already held its graduation ceremony on Jun. 4. 

“For the occasion, the students were invited by class bubble, to come to school during a pedagogical day and asked to dress up for the occasion,” Said Alain Perron, responsible for media relations at the CSDM.

“We gave out diplomas, yearbooks and some gifts out to the students” added Perron, but specified that no further celebrations were planned.

École Lucien-Pagé held its reduced size graduation ceremony on Jun. 4. Photo: Centre de services scolaire de Montréal

Lessons learned

Regardless of the differing circumstances, students are going through, many lessons were learnt this year. Ibrahim Amin feels positive about his final year and feels more grateful for what he has. 

“This year has allowed me to actually reflect on my past and that just going to school is a privilege,” said Amin when asked about the lessons he took from the past year. 

“I’ve learned to be thankful for the school system that we had always complained about,” joked Amin, adding that he now felt lucky to be able to wake up in the morning and go to school.

“This year was great, despite everything that has happened,” said Amin, concluding on a thankful note.