Graduation day

Last Friday Penticton Secondary School had their graduating commencement ceremonies at the Sout5h Okanagan Events Centre. There were over 300 graduates on the main floor plus all their family and friends in the stands. I was there to present a Penticton Centennial Bursary Award.

I remember shortly after this last election I got a letter from the parents of one of my buddies from high school. The letter congratulated me on my mayoral win and included a picture of me and some friends during our grad ceremony 27 years ago. 

I remember wanting to look tanned, but showing up with a bright red sun burn; which, with my white tuxedo, certainly separated me from the rest of the class. Who would of thought willing to be a little different back then would lead to the life I have today. In life we seem to be content to follow the status quo, conform to what others want and keep within our comfort zone.  We are fearful of being a little odd or different.  My wish for this year’s grads is that they have the courage to be a little different and follow their passions.

 As today’s graduates from high school go out into the world, what have we done to bolster their dreams to pursue something they love, and is there a way to keep them in town or the region? 

The valedictorians spoke about how Penticton was such a great place to grow up, and how it was an even better place to leave.  How do we create an environment where the kids who grew up here can afford to return, not in their 50s but in their 30s and 40s?  Of course we want to provide opportunities for youth to stay in Penticton after high school with good jobs or training centers, but we also understand that kids want to have an opportunity to explore beyond what they already know.  Kids want to exercise their right of passage into independence.

We can’t stop kids from wanting to explore the world, experiences and pursue their interests or opportunities.  What we should be doing is creating an environment where the kids of today want to return to Penticton to start or raise a family, have the ability to start a business, and have a stable good paying job.

Some people think it is just the way Penticton is and we are no different than any other smaller community so don’t waste any time on any strategies for youth engagement.  Penticton’s growth rate is less than 1% and with an aging demographic, we better start figuring out resident and business recruitment strategies if we want our needs to be fulfilled in the coming years.  Who do you think is going to build our Patient Care Tower at the Hospital and who do you think is going to admit, diagnose and treat us? Not sure I would want a surgeon at the end of their career versus a young doctor schooled in modern technology advancements and techniques.  I want a community where the grandkids get excited about coming for a visit and there is a multitude of activities to keep them busy and us proud of the community we have chosen to make our home.