2K14 valedictorians shine bright

Nathan Liewicki
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This last week, the Times-Herald sat down with each of the city's five high school valedictorians to ask them – among other things – about their fondest high school memories, what their future plans are and their message to fellow graduates.


Emma Maelde considered pursuing engineering. Instead, the Peacock Collegiate graduate has opted to go down a different career path.

Maelde said she spent lots of time exploring her options and looking for a career that she would enjoy, that would see her work reasonable hours and pay her a respectable wage. In the end, dentistry is the path Peacock’s valedictorian has chosen to tackle.

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) was, however, always in her sights and she will enter the College of Arts and Science in September.

“Ever since I was little I thought about going to the U of S. So, when it finally came time to make my decision, that’s where I decided I wanted to go,” Maelde told the Times-Herald.

Because the U of S – the province’s premiere post-secondary institution – is only a couple of hours from home, Maelde will not be too far from her family, which is something she said was important to her.

“I think I need to stay close enough where I can come home and see them, but not close enough that I have to stay in Moose Jaw,” said Maelde.

Although she is preparing to venture off to university, Maelde will take a multitude of high school memories with her.

She was in the high school musical three of her four years and the women’s sports representative for the student governing assembly. She also was a member of four sports teams: basketball, volleyball, badminton and track and field.

“I’m going to miss going to the gym everyday after school and being part of that team atmosphere with an athletic team,” said Maelde.

Her involvement in many extracurricular school activities in high school formed the basis of her valedictorian speech, which she hoped would leave her fellow graduates motivated.

“Life is too short for things to happen to you,” said Maelde. “You have to go out and make things happen.

“My teachers (told me) to get involved because if you don’t in high school you’re going to regret it.”

And even though she has graduated from high school, there is one more school-oriented activity Maelde is scheduled to participate in. In early July, she will join approximately 100 other Peacock students for a school trip early to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Maelde visited Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria during her Grade 10 year, but the opportunity of stepping foot on the African continent is something she has wanted to do.

“Ever since I was younger, I've always just wanted to go to Africa,” she said. “I was just super ecstatic when it was announced the group would be going there.”





It is never easy to be a teacher’s kid. The academic expectations tend to be through the roof and your parents often will restrict free time until all of your homework is complete.

Now imagine both your parents are teachers. Daniel Holzer knows the feeling.

Holzer’s father is a welding teacher at Peacock Collegiate. His mother is a mathematics teacher at Central Collegiate, and his calculus teacher in Grade 12.

According to Holzer, his parents were not an authoritative pain in his side. They were far from it.

“My parents both pushed me to do my best. They were only upset with a bad mark on a test if they knew I could have done better,” said Holzer. “If I gave it my all and I worked for two hours on an essay that I only got 93 per cent, they knew that was my best and were fine with it.”

However, Holzer told the Times-Herald he was pushed more by himself than anyone else. He ended up completing his senior year with a 97 per cent average and was recognized as Central’s valedictorian for it.

In his first year of high school, his average was in the low 90 per cent range, but when he entered Grade 11 he ramped up his educational focus. Holzer said that was primarily the result of striving to achieve a $3,000 entrance scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) for having an average of at least 95 per cent over his final two high school years.

Care to guess which class his highest Grade 12 mark was in?

Here’s a hint: it was the same class his mom taught him.

Neither of his parents will be teaching him next year when begins pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree from the U of S, but that does not mean their influence on him will be lost.

“I’ve had a major interest in cars and machines and have always gone to (my dad) first to ask him about them,” said Holzer.

He says he will continue to search out his dad’s insights even after he leaves home.

Holzer will miss the five high school sports he was involved in and singing in the school choir. However, before he departed school Holzer said he wanted to leave a “light but serious” impression on his fellow graduates with his valedictorian speech.

“I’m hoping to finish with something really strong that will inspire everyone to do their best in the future.”





Chantal Morin admits it's a struggle for her to remember schedules and dates, noting that everybody else runs her life. Even at the end of the school year, Morin did not have her school schedule memorized.

“I had to ask my classmates everyday what class I had next,” Morin told the Times-Herald.

For someone who was not always aware of what her next class was, Morin excelled academically. The Cornerstone Christian School valedictorian found school fairly simple, and her 96 per cent average in Grade 12 is a testament to that.

Her best subject in school, and the one that came most naturally to her, was English Language Arts (ELA). Morin loves stories and thinks “it’s incredible when you can put a string of words together and create a picture in someone’s mind.”

Despite her top of the class marks, Morin believes numbers do lie.

“I say that because I believe life smarts are a lot more valuable than school smarts,” she said. “A lot of kids think that they aren’t smart because they don’t get good marks, but I don’t think that’s true. I think you can be really intelligent without getting good marks.”

It’s on that premise that Morin penned her valedictorian speech for her fellow graduates – that and the pursuit of dreams.

“My hope for each and every one of them is that they find something that really sets their heart on fire and just to go hard after that,” explained Morin. “If your heart is on fire about it, it’s going top bring you so much joy.”

So, what dream is Morin attempting to pursue?

“The biggest thing I see myself doing – this is the thing that I stay awake thinking about – is acting. That’s something I got really into here at Cornerstone,” she said.

“I love the world of movies, film and everything involved with stepping into a different world.”

Morin also believes her love of ELA will help her out in the film world “because I can see myself writing and not just acting.”

However, before heading to Vancouver and delving into her passion in the film industry, there is one stop Morin will be taking.

Beginning in September, she will be attending Eston College – approximately 150 kilometres northwest of Swift Current – for a year of Bible college. She expects it will be a good transition year for her, including having a chance to experience life away from home and enhance her spirituality.

“I want to make sure my faith is my own and sometimes it’s hard to actually tell people that I’m going to Bible College,” Morin said. “It’s a weird kind of thing, but I know that Jesus fascinates me and so if anything (college) will be a history lesson on this incredible man that so many people don’t even know actually existed.”





Every eye in the Vanier Collegiate gymnasium gazed upon him. Dressed in his graduating cap and gown, Chad Stephens stared back at them. He paused. That’s when he pulled it out and started waving it for all to see.

It was a miniature Russian flag.

Stephens lacks Russian bloodlines, so why did Vanier’s 2K14 valedictorian wave the flag?

“This year we had a school-wide Olympics for the Winter Olympics. We have four homerooms at Vanier among the Grade 12s and three of them were on Team Russia, and we won the Olympics. So, that's what it was for,” Stephens explained to the Times-Herald.

As he closes the book on his four years at Vanier, that is just one of the many memories Stephens will hold on to. Some of the other memories involved learning on a variety of scales.

He recalled some of those learning experiences for his fellow graduates during his valedictorian speech, including ones directed at some of the school’s teachers.

“We had to learn that Mr. Gottselig will eat a snack – no matter where it really comes from. We had to learn that we have a handful of teachers here at Vanier who cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs, which – although I’m not a sports fan – apparently that is not the team to cheer for. And we had to learn that on any given day Mr. Froehlich’s math class was give or take five days behind.”

Stephens admitted that he did not always see eye-to-eye with his teachers, but noted that he learned from those challenging situations.

“Anytime you have a struggle with a teacher, a friend, or anything, you're always learning something – be it a lesson about someone you want to become, or someone you don't want to become,” said Stephens.

In fact, Stephens already envisions successful futures for the other members of Vanier’s 2K14 class. That is the message he passed on to them during his speech.

“They need to recognize they are already looking like successful people, and they need to embrace that they are successful,” Stephens told the Times-Herald. “They’re already becoming someone of great importance before they’ve already begun.”

So, how does Stephens plan on becoming successful?

For a start, he is headed to the University of Saskatchewan next fall to pursue an engineering degree, specifically civil engineering. A recipient of the Rotary Club of Moose Jaw Scholarship, Chancellors’ Scholarship and University of Saskatchewan Entrance Scholarship, Stephens’ academic success is something he strived for, as was the honour of valedictorian.

“It means I’m pretty start,” Stephens joked when asked what it means to be Vanier’s valedictorian.

“I wouldn't consider myself better than anyone else in the grade. Everyone is smart in their own way and my way of intelligence just happens to be through school. Other people do social work. Some people are athletes or musicians. I'm the school guy.”

When he looks back at his commencement ceremony there is one thing Stephens says he hopes will stick with him.

“I hope to take with me the smiles of people – just making people happy and seeing them happy on their day. That's all I'd ask for.”





Battles between brothers are common. Whether it is sports, academics, or relationships, each brother wants to top the other.

Those battles tend to be heightened when brothers are twins. Justin and Jason Rochford epitomize the sibling rivalry, but on an entirely different level.

They both have Asperger syndrome.

Characterized by things like, significant difficulties in social interaction and/or restricted and repetitive behaviour and interest patterns, being diagnosed with Asperger’s has not held the Rochford boys back.

Both graduated from Riverview Collegiate this year with Justin – notably different than his brother because of his longer hair, as well as his facial hair – having the honour of being named the school’s valedictorian.

“It adds a bit of a challenge. There’s friendly competition,” Justin said of the academic rivalry between he and his brother.

Justin said he has been slightly ahead of his brother for the last few years, but admits it was a tough competition in the push to be Riverview’s valedictorian.

Although his cumulative marks clipped brother Jason's, Justin told the Times-Herald, “It makes me feel proud to have someone to share the achievement of graduating high school with.”

Among the subjects that Justin excelled in the most were science, physics and math – essentially anything to do with numbers. He even competed in the 2014 University of Saskatchewan High School Physics Scholarship Competition in May, as did his brother.

Instead of heading north to Saskatoon, Regina, or any other major university next year, Justin has decided to take a one-year business certificate program at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST).

“I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do, so that will help me get a baseline,” Justin said of his decision to attend SIAST in 2014-15.

However, he says he is looking to pursue “something in the electronics business – maybe in programming.”

Despite his Asperger’s, Justin described himself as “just one of the guys,” and someone looking to make a splash with the life goals he decides to chase.



Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.

Organizations: College of Arts and Science, Bible college, Eston College Times-Herald University of Saskatchewan Cornerstone Christian School Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology Toronto Maple Leafs Rotary Club of Moose Jaw Scholarship Scholarship and University of Saskatchewan Entrance Scholarship

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Spain, Portugal Morocco Germany Switzerland Italy Austria Africa Vancouver Swift Current Saskatoon

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