Last fall, the Rotary Club of Chesterville undertook an initiative aimed at remedying one of the harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Club collaborated with the South Nation Conservation Authority to plant trees to commemorate the graduates of 2020 and 2021 who were not able to have a formal graduation due to gathering limit restrictions and other pandemic concerns. Since graduation is considered a significant milestone in a young life, and it is impossible to gain back a missed graduation, the trees serve as something special in lieu of a ceremony that will last a lifetime.
Three honey locust trees were planted in total – one at each of the schools in Chesterville. On May 4, members of the Rotary Club were joined by Steve Densham from South Nation Conservation to visit each of the three schools and unveil commemorative plaques for the trees. The group first visited St Mary’s Catholic School, followed by Chesterville Public School, and ending with North Dundas District High School. The plaques provide a message to ensure that the purpose of the trees is never forgotten, stating “This tree was planted in honour of the Graduates of 2020 and 2021 who did not have a formal graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The beautiful trees are placed prominently in the yards of each school. “Through the pandemic, the Rotary Club of Chesterville has helped our community by donating to the Food Bank and donating $300 each to some local businesses which had to close their doors during the first lock down,” said Rotary Club of Chesterville President Christine Cross-Barkley. “We also decided to plant trees in honour of the graduates who were not celebrated with a formal graduation.”
Other initiatives made headlines throughout the pandemic, as parents and school officials scrambled to soften the blow of cancelling long-anticipated gradations over looming pandemic concerns. Some area schools had lawn signs printed, so that graduates who did not get to experience a ceremony would at least be able to proudly display the fact of their graduation on their own front lawn. With the pandemic now accepted by many to be in its endemic state, and most restrictions having been lifted for months, this year will likely be the first since 2019 with normal graduation ceremonies for students. Initiatives such as the planting of trees remind us that regardless of how the occasion of graduation is celebrated, all graduates have much to be proud of.