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‘I learned how to teach myself to make everything a learning experience,’ grad Grace Nakazi says


Posted: July 01, 2023

In the last few weeks of the school year, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo highlighted six graduating students on The Morning Edition. They were (from left): Jomi Oyediran, Julian Laparan, Aibhlin Kennedy, Kenzy Soror, Grace Nakazi and Armin Alipour. (Carmen Groleau/Kate Bueckert/Josette Lafleur/CBC/photo of Kenzy Soror by Nadezhda Boginya/Pure Muse Portrait)

Another school year has come to a close and for many of those bidding farewell to high school, the last four years have been a very unique experience.

The pandemic saw students learn online for the first two years of high school, then they switched to in-person but with some restrictions to start when it came to extracurricular activities and social events.

Throughout the month of June, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition with Craig Norris has featured local graduates.

Along with high school graduates, CBC K-W also spoke with a young man who was in a refugee camp for nine years in Turkey, moved to Kitchener in July 2022 and who has now completed his high school education and will be going to the University of Guelph this fall.

The students shared their thoughts about the past four years and what they’re looking forward to next. Their stories and interviews are below.

Kenzy Soror has served as a student trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board for two terms. She will wrap up that work later this summer. (Nadezhda Boginya/Pure Muse Portrait)

Kenzy Soror

Kenzy Soror is a graduate from Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener and has also served for two terms as a student trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board.

She and fellow trustee Vaishnave Raina came up with a new student trustee election process because she had concerns about the representation of student advocates.

“I was struggling to see people like me in student senate and in the position of student trustee,” Soror said.

She said most students she spoke to didn’t know the difference between a student senator or a student trustee.

During her time as a trustee, Soror has faced criticism from parents and adults who disagree with the school board.

“Words have power, but I think it’s important to recognize that this power comes from how we perceive who is saying those words,” she said.

Soror says when she took on the public position and she started to share her opinions, her social media feeds have been filled with words like indoctrination, politicization, brainwashing from people she says are “hiding behind the internet’s anonymous veils.”

“Most of the time, I just ignore them as an inevitable side effect of not locking my account and not keeping myself in an echo chamber of only the opinions that I agree with.”

LISTEN | Kenzy Soror on serving as a WRDSB student trustee for two years, handling criticism and what’s next:

Kenzy Soror is a student trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board. She will be wrapping up her second term as a trustee this summer. With the last month of school about to get underway, and exams ahead, Soror reflects on school, her role on the board and what her plans are after graduation.  7:44
Jomi Oyediran is wrapping up her last year as a Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute student. She’ll be heading to Howard University in Washington, D.C. on an academic scholarship this fall to become a lawyer. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Jomi Oyediran

Jomi Oyediran graduated from Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener and has earned a $60,000 Capstone Scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C., to study political science, with a goal of becoming a lawyer.

During her high school years, Oyediran joined the Black Student Union and says as co-president for the last two years, she learned a lot about leadership, collaboration and teamwork.

A highlight for her was the Breaking Down the Black Box event last year where they brought in local Black-owned businesses in the region as well as performances by students.

She also shared her poetry with her classmates called Just A Young Black Girl.

“That was really scary for me because it was the first time that I was vulnerable with my words because I have been writing poetry for classes and for assignments, but that was the first time I shared it with people who weren’t just my family and friends,” she said.

“It was really nice because the perception of the poem was positive. The teachers were sending me emails after they heard it, students were texting me that I’ve never talked to before, because it really moved everyone because I was personal and I was open talking about how I felt as a Black girl.”

She’s now released a poetry book called Blooming: My Way to Becoming.

LISTEN | Jomi Oyediran on why she wants to become a lawyer, going to Howard University and her high school experience:

Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute student Jomi Oyediran is just weeks away from wrapping up her time in high school. She says she’s really excited about what comes next. She earned an academic scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C. to fulfill her dream to become a lawyer. CBC KW will be highlighting some high school grads from around Waterloo region this month.  6:52
Julian Laparan is a graduate of Glenview Park Secondary School in Cambridge and says he’s excited to work on his apprenticeship to become an electrician. (Josette Lafleur/CBC)

Julian Laparan

For Julian Laparan, there’s no question about what comes after he graduates from Glenview Park Secondary School. He’s already on track to become an electrician.

In the next decade, he wants to finish his apprenticeship — which includes school and 10,000 hours of work — and then specialize in agriculture, so he can be an electrician for greenhouses.

He did a co-op term at Eclipse Automation in Cambridge after being inspired to consider seeing his neighbour work as an electrician. 

He joined The Morning Edition on his last day of high school.

“It feels pretty crazy because for the past two years, I’ve been going to school, but the other two, just doing stuff online,” he said. “It’s just crazy that I won’t see half the people anymore, I won’t be in the building anymore … It’ll be gone after today.”

He said he wished he had started taking tech classes sooner and suggested others do co-op as early as possible to get a better idea of what you like and what you don’t.

“If you don’t know, I’d say just wait, because eventually something will come,” he said, adding students shouldn’t be afraid to ask people to show you what they do because it may spark an interest for you. “If you like it, you like it and you can just pursue it.”

LISTEN | Julian Laparan on why he encourages students to consider the trades and what’s next for him in his goal of becoming an electrician:

It’s June and this month, CBC K-W is highlighting local graduates. This week, Aibhlin Kennedy, a student at Resurrection Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener, and Grace Nakazi, a student at Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge, joined The Morning Edition to talk about what’s next for them.  6:05
Aibhlin Kennedy, left, and Grace Nakazi are graduating from high school this year. Both say that while the past four years wasn’t quite what they were expecting, they’ve taken important lessons from the unusual high school experience. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Aibhlin Kennedy

Aibhlin Kennedy has known since about Grade 6 that she wanted to work with her hands as part of her career. She would change the tires on her parents’ vehicles in the spring and fall and enjoyed the work.

“I just found that I really loved hands-on work and working on the mechanical side of things and I’ve always loved cars,” the now graduate of Resurrection Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener said.

“I decided it was what I wanted to do.”

Kennedy is currently completing her level one automotive service technician program through Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. As part of her program, she does an apprenticeship through Conestoga College and it gives her a head start on everything she needs to do after high school to become a mechanic.

She says she’s faced some stigma, but not from her co-workers.

“Our actual coworkers love us and they love having us there,” she said, but added customers sometimes treat her differently. “Some people have assumed that I’m the secretary … while I’m covered in dirt, but it’s nothing that really gets to me.”

The past four years have been a challenge, but Kennedy says it focused her more.

“It showed me there’s always going to be roadblocks, no matter what, and if you want something and if you need something, you will do anything in your power to work for that and I think that’s what I definitely did,” she said.

Grace Nakazi

Grace Nakazi is a graduate from Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge who won gold at Ontario Skills Canada competition for a speech about the trades.

As part of the speech, Nakazi focused on how more people in the trades are retiring and there’s a need to motivate young people to consider those career paths.

She said it was great to hear the ideas of other students at the competition.

“Even hearing the other competitors speak, how much if we brought our ideas together, that we could kind of make a little bit of a change in things,” she said.

“All of the ideas that they had about how we could involve more young people, and then all the ideas we had and all the passion we brought to the table, it was really interesting to see how much everybody cares about this topic.”

High school was a mix of in-person and online, but Nakazi says while it wasn’t necessarily the high school experience she was expecting, she has learned from it.

“I think I learned how to teach myself to make everything a learning experience, to try to take the things I run into along the way and just learn as many skills I can from that,” Nakazi said.

LISTEN | Aibhlin Kennedy and Grace Nakazi on making the most of high school experience during pandemic and pursuing their dreams:

This month, we’ve been talking to different high school graduates as the school year wraps up. For some, it can often be difficult to figure out what comes next. But not for Julian Laparan. The Cambridge student has a pretty clear plan on what comes next for him. After graduating from Glenview Park Secondary School, he says he wants to get into the trades and become an electrician.  5:15
In June 2022, Armin Alipour was a refugee in Turkey, his family having fled from Iran nine years earlier. He couldn’t attend school and he taught himself using online resources. His family came to Kitchener, Ont., in July 2022 and that fall, he enrolled at Saint Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education in Kitchener. He worked hard to earn his high school credits and was accepted to the University of Guelph where he’ll study engineering in the fall of 2023. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Armin Alipour

A year ago, Armin Alipour was a refugee in Turkey. His family had fled Iran in 2014 and they were waiting to come to Canada.

During the nine years he was in Turkey, Alipour couldn’t attend school because he didn’t speak Turkish. Instead, he did everything he could to teach himself using online resources.

His family came to Kitchener in July 2022 and then he went into Saint Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education in September. He officially had a Grade 7 education, but his hard work helped him move quickly through programs at Saint Louis and he graduated this spring.

This fall, Alipour will attend the University of Guelph for mechanical engineering.

“I was hoping to get my high school degree in like a year, but now I’m going to university in a year,” he said.

“With the help of the amazing guidance counselors and the teachers, I was able to finish all the required courses for the program that I wanted to go to university.”

Alipour says after missing nine years of school, he focused on his studies over the past few months.

“I didn’t want to lose another second,” he said.

LISTEN | Armin Alipour talks about the past year, moving from a refugee camp in Turkey to Kitchener and going back to school:

In June 2022, Armin Alipour was a refugee in Turkey, his family having fled from Iran nine years earlier. He couldn’t attend school and he taught himself using online resources. His family came to Kitchener, Ont., in July 2022 and that fall, he enrolled at Saint Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education in Kitchener. He worked hard to earn his high school credits and was accepted to the University of Guelph where he’ll study engineering in the fall of 2023.  6:09

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Bueckert

Reporter/Editor

Kate has been covering issues in southern Ontario for more than 15 years. She currently works for CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. Email: kate.bueckert@cbc.ca

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