The largest high school in southeastern Manitoba, at nearly 2,000 students, is preparing to hand out diplomas to the largest graduating class at 446.

Grade 12 Vice Principal, Greg Sawatzky says the Steinbach Regional Secondary School has a wide-student catchment, with kids attending from Niverville, Grunthal, Landmark, Kleefeld, New Bothwell, and as far away as Falcon Lake, besides Steinbach.

Sawatzky says he is quite proud of this graduating class.

“This class has been phenomenal, from sports to arts, they've left an indelible mark. Some highlights would include our Varsity Girls clinching the AAAA Provincial Volleyball Championship, and just recently, our Rugby 7’s team brought home another provincial title.”

He continues, “Our boys excelled in baseball, winning the Zone 13 championship. The arts flourished too, with sold-out performances of 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe', and our concert band won a trophy at the Optimist Festival and an invitational to Nationals."

Sawatzky continues, ”So, our grade 11 and 12 Choir and Chamber Choir had a smashing time at Choral Fest. And to top it off our Vocal Jazz Group, Spectrum sang on stage at Canada Life Centre with the legendary band, Foreigner.

Sawatzky’s excitement extends beyond the stage and field. "Then our vocational programs shone at the Provincial Skills Competition, and several of our student's won gold, others placed in silver and bronze. All these students have so much to be proud of."

SRSS Grade 12 Vice Principal, Greg SawatzkySRSS Grade 12 Vice Principal, Greg Sawatzky

When asked about the characteristics of this year's graduates, Sawatzky notes, "There's a real positive energy with this group. They've built strong connections with staff and each other, and their dedication to success is inspiring. They're not just academically driven; many contribute to the wellness of our school and community."

Sawatzky notes that the SRSS will be able handing out over $58,000 in scholarships and awards at the convocation on Tuesday.

“That's not counting the outside scholarships from the post-secondary institutions, from them U of M alone our students are getting $120,000. But I have to say that we're really fortunate to have a supportive and generous community that's willing to recognize the hard work and contributions made by our students. And so, I just want to take the opportunity to let the community know how much we really appreciate their support.”

Of the 446 class of 2024 grads, students chose Peyton Kehler as their valedictorian, to which she says, "It's an honor to represent such a diverse and accomplished class.”

Peyton notes a highlight for her would be the connections she’s made along the way.

“I think it just shows that when you put the effort in, and you want to have a relationship and you want to connect on a different level, it's very accessible and very easy to do. And everything that happened in between the day-to-day classroom activity I think has been my favorite part.”

Peyton notes, “I think just being able to connect with other people and get to know their hearts, their ambition and see what motivates them to start every day has been special for me.”

Peyton's involvement in extracurricular activities speaks volumes about her commitment to community and sportsmanship. "I played varsity basketball and led initiatives like the basketball camp for young girls."

Principal Sawatzky points out that, "Peyton's camp was a huge success, emphasizing inclusivity and passion for sports."

What’s ahead for Peyton? More schooling as she plans to study political science at the University of Ottawa. "I want to delve into the heart of politics. It's about making an impact and understanding our world better."

Peyton shares these words with her fellow graduates.

"I think at the end of the day, high school doesn't have to be your peak. I think we often are told that this is the best couple of years of your life and that, like, you’ve got to live it out, and really enjoy it. But I think as we go on, and as we experience new things, you're still going to have your friends, so keep them close, keep your family close, but try new things, experience life in a different way. It's not downhill from here.”

Principal Sawatzky echoes Peyton's sentiment, expressing confidence in their future.

“To just continue to be who we are. All those positive attributes, they're going to serve them well in life. And because they're really good people, I have no worries about the future with this group.”

But he adds, "We'll miss their energy and spirit, and we're going to be really interested to see where they go.”

Steinbach Regional Secondary School convocation, banquet, and prom will be taking place at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Tuesday, June 25.

Photos in the gallery below feature some of activities of the Steinbach Regional Secondary School 2023-2024 school year, captures by Mark Reimer.