Branksome Hall News

Virtual GY 2020 Graduation goes down in Branksome history

Who could have predicted that carefully chosen formal clothes would be replaced by “avatars” in leggings, toasting each other and dancing to “Dancing Queen” on a virtual stage, just three months ago?
Despite not being together in person, the collective admiration and warmth made it through the home screens of 300-plus audience members who “attended” Branksome Hall’s first-ever Virtual GY 2020 Celebration on May 26 at 1:30 p.m.

“When the little avatars started singing ‘Keep Well the Road,’ I lost it!,” says Heather Friesen, Head, Curriculum Innovation & Professional Learning.  

Summoning much ingenuity, Director of Technology and Innovation Michael Ianni-Palarchio and his IT teamcollaborating with students, guest alums, staff and facultyworked with an immersive platform allowing pre-recorded video to be embedded on screens in an online auditorium, complete with audience seating and various points of view, a podium and a platform party. 

Throughout the ceremony, each speaker acknowledged the uniqueness of the occasion and saluted the students for their resilience, particularly during the last few months.    

“Each of you has surprised yourself by digging deep and drawing on strengths you never even knew you had,” said Principal Karen Jurjevich in her opening remarks, delivered live with an on-stage avatar. “Your time at Branksome has prepared you well, the IB has prepared you well, and we are confident that you will continue to grow and learn no matter where life takes you.”

Outgoing Head Prefect Elaine Lee and Valedictorian Jade Mair Douglas toasted the class in avatar form and also offered video messages. “Our memories will connect us no matter where we go,” said Lee. 

Deputy Principal Karrie Weinstock quoted a woman who knows a thing or two about resilience, Oprah Winfrey. “Never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more purpose, vision, passion, energy and hope,” Weinstock quoted, adding, “You will go down in Branksome history as the class who dealt with the challenge of this global pandemic, and this makes your experience truly unique.”

At the ceremony, a video featuring best wishes and goodbyes from staff and faculty was also shown. The video in its full form can be seen here.  

Keeping a special tradition alive, the GY gift this year was the establishment of the “Class of 2020 Emergency Needs Award,” totalling more than $41,000 to date. GY Reps Caroline Logush, Sarah Kent and Hope Rutledge worked with parents Katharine and Kilian Berz and Maria Smith and Eric Tripp to champion this initiative.

President of the Branksome Hall Alumnae Association, Karen Cordes Woods’99, spoke by video to introduce a congratulatory message from Sarah Levy’04, star of Schitt’s Creek. 

Finally, Assistant Head of Senior and Middle School Kim Knaiz invited all the new graduates on stage for another Branksome first—a celebratory dance party. “I know how much this group loves to dance,” she said. 

The festivities were capped off with a post-ceremony Zoom celebration with graduates, staff and faculty. Graduates and their families are looking forward to an on-campus graduation at a date to be determined. 

Congratulations to our Class of 2020! Here is the complete list of 2019-20 award winners: 

Drama Pins:

Silver Pins:

Zeta Chai
Chloe Nan 
Gold Pins:
Dorthy Cheng
Phoebe Dawson
Eva Greyeyes

Platinum Pin:
Paige Crawley

Music Pins:
Ellen Belbeck
Paige Crawley
Adele Crete-Laurence
Jade Mair Douglas
Izzy Matthews
Laeticia Niu
Lillian Rong 
Auden Wells

Music Plaques:
Sophia Berz
Julia Black
Christy Cheng
Alexandra Lam
Calyssia Lee
Yliane Schwanengel

Music Trophy:
Connie Guo

Dance Pin:
Dorthy Cheng 

Athletic Pins:
Ellen Belbeck 
Rosie Butterworth 
Emma Chan 
Claire Christie 
Emily Dockrill
Arianne Ettehadieh
Sarah Ettehadieh  
Fatima Fadel
Katie Fairbrother
Judy Guo  
Alana Hodgson 
Veronique Knapp
Ava Korley-Myron
Katie Kosche 
Caly Lee 
Tara Lee 
Caroline Logush
Jade Mair-Douglas
Laeticia Niu
Mason O’Connor
Alana Phelps 
Rebecka Quinn
Isabel Reisman 
Hope Rutledge
Nicolette Temple
Mia Tripp
Paige Wanzel

The Slogan (Senior Editors):
Arianne Ettehadieh 
Laura Keyworth 
Tegan Kinnear 
Elizabeth Sullivan 
Lauren Armstrong 

Perennial Team:
Elaine Lee
Shelley Shen
Ellen Belbeck
Paige Crawley
Kate Groenewegen 
Izzy Slone 
Lillian Rong

Branksome Hall

10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
M4W 1N4
Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years, IB World School.
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