Graduation for most high school students is the celebration of four years of parties, pep rallies, friendships and memories. For the students of the Pinball Clemons Ambassador School, graduation is so much more. It is a celebration of overcoming unfathomable obstacles and roadblocks. It is a celebration of proving all the naysayers wrong who said, “You’re not smart enough, or “You don’t belong in school”. All of this culminated in a graduation ceremony, symbolizing both the end of a journey and the beginning of another.
The Pinball Clemons Foundation and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada hosted the 2019 Pinball Clemons Ambassador School Program graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 27th. Donors, staff, family and other guests assembled in Downtown Toronto, where the class of 2019 walked across the stage and received their certificates.
“I am so elated and proud to see our students achieve a major milestone in their lives,” said Bianca Bertagnolio, the Foundation Manager of the Pinball Clemons Foundation. “Knowing of all the challenges and adversity these young people had to overcome, I couldn't be more excited to celebrate with them today, knowing that they are all in much better places because they all worked really hard to get this far. But the journey is not over for these youth, as we will continue to mentor and support them until they get their dream careers."
The ceremony began with speeches from various Children’s Aid Foundation staff members. The speakers echoed common of thoughts of happiness and pride.
The graduates walked across the stage to receive their certificates, as the audience looked on with expressions of love and joy draped across their faces. A short walk across the small stage symbolized a long journey of hard work and sacrifice; a feat many students deemed impossible only a few years prior.
Graduation was a time for the students to reflect on everything the program has taught them. For most, the Pinball Clemons Ambassador School Program served as an environment for independence and growth.
Following the certificate presentation, the audience heard from former CFL player and Ahead of a Game founder, Jonathan Hood, who’s been mentoring the students throughout the school year. Jonathan spoke to the fact that he’s inspired daily by the resiliency and determination of the students.
After Jonathan’s kind words, Michael “Pinball” Clemons addressed the audience and offered high praise to each student. Pinball emphasized the idea that “It’s important to understand that what’s needed for you to succeed is already in you. The passion and fire that you possess is more than enough”.
The afternoon came to an end and the graduating class were greeted by eager friends, family and staff members. It was great opportunity to not only offer the students heartfelt congratulations, but to reflect on a long and rewarding journey.
After the graduation, the youth were treated to a special dinner at Captains Boil, which was donated by Rally for Kids participant , Brett Purcell. The students, donors, and Pinball Clemons Foundation staff enjoyed incredible food, great conversation and good company.
Although the students have graduated from the Pinball Clemons Ambassador School Program, the support doesn’t stop there. This is only the first step in going from the margins to mainstream. The ultimate goal is not a diploma or degree – we want to see youth gainfully employed in careers they desire! Thank you to everyone that made this day possible!