There's an extra special buzz in the air to celebrate the 2022 graduating classes of two of our local high schools.

It marks the return of graduation banquets right in our community, instead of having to make the trek into Calgary.

For the first time, they're utilizing the facilities of the SLS Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) and its curling centre. Cochrane High is holding its convocation this morning (June 3) starting at 10:30 a.m. and a banquet will be held in the evening. 

While Bow Valley High School will be holding its convocation at the Foothills Alliance Church on Saturday, they too will be holding a celebration that evening in the curling centre.

Discussions began pre-pandemic and it has now become a reality with the return of in-person events. 

"We're so excited to be able to do this," says Michelle Everett, SLS Family Sports Centre sales and marketing manager. "We want to be the centre of things in Cochrane, so it's not just swimming and fitness, it's events. It's been on our radar as something we wanted to do for years now to have the big events inside and out and use our entire space for the community."

The two schools are collaborating and sharing the resources. A total of 1,100 seats have been set up for today's convocation. Parents and teachers were busy assembling the pieces while the tech crew from Cochrane High's cutting-edge Creator Studio was gearing up to stream the ceremony live.

After that, it will be converted into a banquet setting.

Allison Temple has been planning and coordinating the event on behalf of SLSFSC and says the aim was to get our grads back in the community.

Like many of us, the 21-year Cochrane resident has had to travel to Calgary for one of her children's graduation banquets. Last year, it was a socially-distancing grad for another. 

She says it's been a lot of work for everyone involved but something special has been created.

"What we're doing here is kind of changing everything," says Temple. "I love the parents' initiative in this because instead of doing the sit-down plated formal banquet that has always been done for grads in the past we're making more of a social cocktail party where there are food stations and people are roaming. There are cocktail tables, banquet tables, and couches, so it's a social community event versus being stuck at the table... and then your grad leaves."

She says the centre's staff has helped pull it all together.

"I've had to utilize almost everybody in the centre. There are so different aspects we've had to work with to change this space from a curling rink into a banquet hall."

Lisa Hyde, chair of the Bow Valley Graduation Committee, says parents from both schools have been stepping up and helping each other.

She, too, is thrilled to see the banquet stay in town.

"It's nice to keep Cochrane dollars in Cochrane. It's perfect."

Cochrane High principal Jeff Chalmers says their graduates did a run-through on the ceremony Thursday morning and there was a mixture of excitement and nerves.

"I think this is fantastic," says Chalmers. "After not having regular grad for the last two years, everybody's pumped up."

He's also looking forward to the evening banquet.

"The parents have worked hard on that piece so it will be a fabulous evening. It's a fantastic venue for this. It's nice to be able to host it in town instead of having to go to the city like we've had to do in the past."

Initial meetings are already in the works with both schools on next year's graduation events.

"The potential in this space is phenomenal and we want to utilize that and get people thinking to stay local and use this space," says Everett. "It can be used for so many things."

Congratulations to all involved in making this a special day right here at home for our future leaders.

Marla and RandiAmong the many happy to be chipping in were parents Marla Trenke, left, and Randi Basi.


setup 1Students in Cochrane High's Creator Studio will be streaming today's convocation live.

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