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CCI valedictorian goes to great heights for her speech from home

There was a helicopter involved
Grad Photo
CCI valedictorian for the Class of 2020: Lauren Frye. Contributed photo

A local high school graduate called in a big favour and used a helicopter ride to make sure she made it on time for her valedictorian speech. 

Though technically she couldn’t be late for a ceremony that didn’t take place. The helicopter ride was part of the plot for her video introduction to a speech she delivered at home. 

Lauren Frye was chosen by her peers as the valedictorian for the Collingwood Collegiate Institute class of 2020. The school held a drive-thru graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 25, allowing students to come one-by-one to pick up their diplomas and a swag bag. 

Frye delivered her valedictorian speech by video from her home, but not until she had a little fun creating a dramatic intro that began with a car breakdown, involved her calling in a favour and boarding a helicopter to make it to school on time and ended with her at a podium in front of an empty CCI gym. 

The next shot is Frye in a home office. 

“Usually that gym you just saw would be filled with graduates, parents, teachers, however, COVID-19 has changed all that for us,” she said to the camera. “But one thing COVID-19 won’t change is our spirit.” 

Frye and her fellow grads switched to online and video communication for the tail-end of their graduating year, so a graduation using the same technology follows suit. 

Sticking a bit of humour and drama into the speech’s introduction was Frye’s way of making lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“I walked the fine line between humour and seriousness while writing this speech,” said Frye. “I wanted to stress the fact that although this isn’t the most ideal situation with COVID-19, we must make the best of it and we will bounce back from this.” 

Frye used her speech to highlight the talents of her fellow students, naming several and giving credit for their skills in automotive, math, athletics, business, and more. 

“I wanted to write a speech that included everyone … from the automotive students, to the chemistry students, to the exceptional athletes,” she said. “It was very sad and unfortunate when we heard the news that we were not going to have a prom or proper graduation. In Grade 12, these are significant events that everyone looks forward to as a way to celebrate all our accomplishments.” 

And though there were many accomplishments for this year’s graduates over their four-year terms at CCI, the most recent was completing their last four months of high school from home. 

Frye said learning at home took some getting used to, but also left some more time for physical activity and “cooking some pretty spectacular meals.” While school at home was delicious, she admits she’d rather learn in a classroom. 

The circumstances also brought people together as teachers put in extra effort to help their students learn online and the board offered laptops and mental health support for students who were struggling. 

“We will forever be known as the ‘COVID class,’ the graduating class of 2020,”  said Frye in her speech.  “When I envision you all tonight, I see the beauty of people. I see people who are creative, motivated, different, and passionate about what they believe. We are all so diverse and have so many things to offer the world.” 

The CCI grad said she was honoured to be chosen as the valedictorian for the COVID class. 

She often wondered who would speak for her graduating class, and said being chosen was “overwhelming.” 

Frye will be taking next year off school to make money, and focus on her health and fitness. Her goal is to pursue a career in emergency services. 

You can watch Frye's valedictorian speech and intro video here: