Sometimes the hardest part is saying goodbye, but Belmont secondary is turning farewell into a celebration.
Leanne Harrington, a former student and current teacher at the school, is among the organizers of Saying Goodbye to Belmont. The preparation for the May 9 gathering has seen committee members leave no stone unturned.
The hope, Harrington says, is that the event leaves a positive legacy for the school in celebrating its 68 years of existence in one form or another.
“We spent a lot of time deciding what (the farewell) would look like, taking it to all stakeholders, presenting that to our trustees at one of our local board meetings,” she said. “They were blown away with the ideas that were presented. From that we got approval. We’re very confident with what we have.”
A community service class was born from those meetings. Grade 12s Ravina Parmar, Claire Church and Katie Rufh took the lead from the students’ side, working alongside past and present alumni, principal Ray Miller, teachers, Sooke School District trustees and superintendent Jim Cambridge. They all worked toward creating an event to say a respectful goodbye to a school that has seen more than 20,000 graduates.
“High school is a very big part of everyone’s lives, especially Belmont, because it’s got character,” Colwood resident Rufh says. “It has a lot of amazing teachers inside of it and the students are great. Belmont doesn’t get recognized for a lot, but there’s a lot of alumni that have done a lot of amazing things and it’s important to recognize that.”
She is excited for the litany of activities planned. Starting with an pancake breakfast and aboriginal blessing at 9 a.m., the events include on-field musical performances by bands of all sorts featuring alumni from the 1960s, 70’s and through to the modern day. Also on tap will be the digging up of a time capsule for relocation to the new school, an online auction dubbed B-Bay where bidders can purchase Belmont historical memorabilia, a look at the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame and a closing ceremony.
“It (is) going to be a big deal for a lot of the alumni; a lot of people are coming back to see the closing of the school,” Rufh says. “(We) thought it would be a great project to take on. We are big fans of the school. It may not look like much, but it has a lot of heart inside of it.”
One of the organizing committee’s goals is to show the breadth of the school in areas from sports to academics and the arts, and to see every age group of alumni recognized and honoured. Rufh looks forward to making memories on a day featuring the best Belmont has to offer.
“The best part is looking back and seeing the thousands of people that have made the school what it is today,” she says. “That is our big focus for the day, recognizing Belmont in its finest hour, recognizing the things it has done through the decades, because (its alumni have) done a lot of incredible things.”
Giro d’Italia cycling race winner and Canadian Olympian Ryder Hesjedal, one of the school’s most famous graduates, has fond memories of a school he was always excited to attend. During his student days, he wrote in an email, he could feel the history and the importance of Belmont in the community.
“For me, Grade 11 and 12 were exciting years, and it was there that I set out on my way to being a professional cyclist,” he said. “I hope the new school is even more inspiring for all the students and teachers.
“It’s sad to see a place go that has great memories, but it’s about building for the future and always moving forward, so I’m excited to see the new Belmont in action.”
Saying Goodbye to Belmont happens at the school on Jacklin Road on Saturday, May 9 starting at 9 a.m. Closing ceremonies are at 7 p.m.
To view the online auction items, visit bbay.com.