EDMONTON -- The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed thousands of Grade 12 students of a long-standing rite of passage after their graduation ceremonies were cancelled — but some are pushing back.

“We‘ve already lost so much,” said Mackenzie Hollinshead, a Grade 12 student at Strathcona Christian Academy in Sherwood Park.

“Then to say ‘we’re not going to give you a celebration, the celebration you deserve after 12 years of hard work, even when this is lifted and all done,’ is extremely disappointing and upsetting.”

Hollinshead says when the pandemic hit and classes were cancelled, the school reassured students grad would be postponed.

But two weeks ago, students in the Elk Island Public School division received notice all formal and large-scale grad ceremonies would not go ahead.

“We’re fine waiting a whole other year, like, if we have to wait until the end of next year, we don’t care, we’ll do it then. We just kind of want that last hurrah,” said Hollinshead.

“For some students that won’t be going to college or university, this is the last grad they’ll get, right?”


Elk Island Public Schools declined an on-camera interview with CTV News. In a statement, superintendent Mark Liguori said, in part, “our decision to cancel was made following a thorough discussion of the current situation, potential financial and health risks, and what we feel we can reasonably expect in the months to come.”

Liguori also said “the situation is far from ideal” and acknowledged families’ disappointment adding, “while the formal events will not proceed, schools will do what they can — short of large-scale celebrations — to acknowledge the work students have put towards this noteworthy milestone.”

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange also addressed graduating Alberta students at a news conference Wednesday saying “there will come a time when you can celebrate with friends and family but for now, I just ask that you reflect on these 12 years and do not undervalue this great achievement of yours.”


Hollinshead says Alberta students “deserve a lot better.” She and others have been sharing a petition to convince officials to postpone grad instead of cancelling it.

“A lot of students have contacted me about how they’re feeling and even parents have contacted me about how they’re feeling and we’re all working together to change this.”