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A Powerful and Poignant Send-Off for Branksome’s Class of 2024

Toronto’s historic Winter Garden Theatre was the picturesque setting for Branksome Hall's Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony, which took place on Thursday, May 23. Known for its lush, botanical-themed auditorium, the theatre served as a fitting and vibrant backdrop in which to honour the Class of 2024, with a ceremony filled with music, remarks, awards, and much joy and pride as families, friends, faculty, staff and special guests gathered to celebrate the graduates.
This year’s Graduation events, which took place over two days, were not merely a showcase of academic achievement, but also an opportunity to say farewell to a group of students who have grown together through their years at Branksome Hall—a point poignantly expressed by Valedictorian and Student Government Prefect Anna. In her address to fellow graduates, Anna highlighted a series of memorable experiences and noted that as they came through the challenges of the global Covid pandemic, “Our grade had this fire lit underneath us to take advantage of every opportunity presented to us: we couldn’t spend enough time together.” Ultimately, the group “hit our stride in our DP years. We started telling ourselves we were an amazing and enthusiastic cohort, and this is what we became. It’s kind of like the research that tells you if you force yourself to smile, you gaslight your brain into thinking you’re happy. Our grade is a self-fulfilling prophecy in the best way, and we continued this cycle of participating and talking about our participation, until the school looked to us as an exemplar of what it means to get involved.”  

At the Graduating Year Breakfast, held the day before the ceremony, graduates and their families gathered in the Athletics and Wellness Centre to honour the Class of ’24’s academic and co-curricular achievements, with powerful remarks delivered by the Honourable Caroline Mulroney, President of the Treasury Board of Ontario, and Minister of Francophone Affairs, as well as Branksome alum Alexa LAENGERT’18. Mulroney shared personal reflections of being a proud parent herself and gave the graduates some advice, noting that “good advice can be an accelerator pedal to a great life,” and encouraging the Class of ‘24 to seek both mentors and sponsors as they pursue their careers, and to get involved in their communities, whether through political life or “anything that allows you to use the skills and talents you’ve developed here to help others and to make the world a better place.”  

Led by GY Representatives Bella and Kate, the graduating class announced at the breakfast event that they had collectively raised a total of $86,523 towards the Class of ’24 Endowed Bursary Fund, far surpassing their original goal of $50,000. After thanking the parents and families who led and supported this effort, Bella and Kate noted in their remarks that the graduating class wanted to leave behind a legacy that spoke to “who we are as a class and our values.” The Class of ‘24 chose to support student financial assistance at the school, they noted, “because we strongly believe that all deserving students should be able to attend Branksome, regardless of their families’ means.” Notably, when Grade 12 students bought tickets in January for their first-ever prom, generously funded by the Branksome Hall Parents’ Association, they chose to redirect $5,000 of the prom account’s surplus to the Class of ’24 Bursary. 

In her final Graduation address as she completes her tenure at Branksome in June after 26 years, Principal Karen Jurjevich told students at the Graduation ceremony that “you are the embodiment of our mission. Branksome empowers girls to be both fearless and kind, risk-takers and leaders, internationally-minded and locally committed,” and noted that the school has a “foundation that cannot be shaken and an appetite to make a difference. Just like each of you.” 

Head Prefect Thea in turn paid tribute to Jurjevich (“The Jurv”) and her leadership. “What is special about Ms. Jurjevich,” she said, “is that not only is she very obviously interested in the success of her students, as proven through her tremendous efforts to make this ‘little Branksome world’ quite a bit wider with BH Asia, the AWC, and now, the iCAST, but she is just as interested in her students themselves. Ms. Jurjevich wants to know about your summer vacation. She is interested in what you think of your course load, if it’s too much, and if there is something she can do to make it a little lighter.” 

The celebration concluded with a final Graduation Reception back on campus, where graduates joyously tossed their caps, were piped in procession around the West campus circle, and where teachers, Advisors, families and graduates mingled, exchanged congratulations and shared their plans for the future.

With diplomas in hand and hearts full of aspiration, Branksome Hall’s Class of 2024 stands ready to take on the world, equipped not just with academic knowledge but also with the life lessons imparted by their alma mater and influential voices like that of Caroline Mulroney and valedictorian Anna. With a combined total of more than 724 offers to Canadian, U.S., UK, and other international universities, their achievements are remarkable, recognized through significant entrance scholarships and collectively resulting in an impressive $4.1-million in scholarships offered to the Class of ’24 this year. As the Class of ’24 moves forward, we know they carry the legacy of Branksome Hall with them into their future endeavours and we wish each one of them the very best. 
We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.