Bahai News -- Grads say the door is wide open

Grads say the door is wide open

Jennifer Hourihan
Kaivon Pakzad-Vaezi and Nicole Ratjen are two Valley graduates leaving the confines of their high school eager to see what the future holds.
By Jennifer Hourihan

Doctor. Dancer. Volunteer. Valuable part of the community. Frances Kelsey class of 2003 graduate Kaivon Pakzad-Vaezi aims to be all these things and more.

When the 17-year-old Mill Bay resident received his diploma on Friday, it capped off a high-school career packed with achievement — from earning a 100 per cent score in the provincial math exam, to using dance to communicate with students in China, brightening seniors’ lives with music and doing medical research for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“I get a feeling of self-satisfaction and self-worth, a feeling that I’m useful to my community around me, instead of just studying,” he says. “That’s why I want to go to medical school, because of that feeling useful thing. I can help people just so much more if I’m a doctor, and that’s what drives me.”

Although he’s one of the school’s top students academically — with two provincial exam marks of 98 per cent in addition to his perfect score in math — he finds time to also nurture his creative side through piano, violin and dancing.

“I’m heavily involved in dance — hip hop and breakdancing,” he says. “I do choreography, try to figure out dances.”

“You’ve heard of underachievers — this guy isn’t an example of that,” says Kelsey principal Al MacLeod.

Kaivon expects his artistic side to help him out during the coming experience of pre-medical studies at the University of Victoria. “All the stress that science and labs and studying brings, playing the violin and the piano is my way to let it out. And dance is how I travel.”

Dance has taken Kaivon to China and Malaysia as part of an arts outreach group from his former school, Maxwell Baha’i.

“Through drama and dances we show solutions to social problems that youth face, like drugs, violence and racism,” he says. “Through dance and drama, we can erase the language barrier because we couldn’t talk to them. That was an incredible experience.”

He already plans to put the skills he’ll learn in pre-medical studies at the University of Victoria to work by volunteering in a Rwandan medical clinic.

“It’s like a test for me because it’s so different,” he says. “People here stub their toes and go to the doctor. There’s it’s like, I lost my arm, and I want to see if I can handle that.”

For fellow Kelsey graduate Nicole Ratjen, life is all about the artistic side.

“I think I’m more of an artsy person,” says the veteran of Kelsey theatre pieces including the Crucible and Jacques Brel. “I don’t want to spend my life in a textbook. Theatre is what I want to do.”

The 17-year-old occasionally hears criticism from people who believe she should be more practical, but says her friends and family and behind her in following her dream of becoming a stage actress.

“People are like, you haven’t hit the real world yet, sweetie. But I definitely have support for it.

“I really enjoy myself in theatre. When you’re able to express yourself creatively, you get so much freedom.”

She’s enjoyed her time in high school — which included involvement with the grad council, Students Against Drunk Driving, the volleyball team, and keeping up good marks in a variety of subjects.

“I kind of lived in school this year because I was in Grade 12,” she said. “I’ve been involved in so many different things and met so many different people. By the time I was in Grade 12 I felt like I knew my whole grad class.”

Nicole plans to spend some time seeing the world before starting to audition for university theatre programs.

“I don’t really have a plan,” she says. “I’m going to go visit family in Germany, and maybe live in Spain or France for a while. I think I have a drive to learn, even while I’m traveling. I don’t think I’ll be one of those people who stops learning.”

Although both Kaivon and Nicole say they’ve enjoyed their time in high school, they’re ready to move on.

“I’m really excited,” Nicole says. “I’m going, whoo! I can do anything! I could look back and be all sad, but I’ve shared the past four years with my friends and this school and it’s time to move on. I feel ready for it.”

Both admit leaving the safe hallways of Frances Kelsey is a little frightening, but the optimistic grads feel they’re up to whatever the world brings.

“It’s like going from the fishbowl into the ocean — so many different ways to go,” Kaivon says. “We’re so lucky that we have so many options, but that means we have so many we don’t know yet where we fit.

“I may plan to become a doctor, but who knows? Maybe I’ll become an actor and Nicole will be the doctor.”

Kaivon and Nicole are two of the students graduating in the Valley. Ceremonies this week at Kelsey, Cowichan secondary, Duncan Christian and Maxwell Bahai, along with earlier ceremonies at other Valley school,s brought to a close the childhood chapter of the Class of 2003.

©Copyright 2003, Duncan News Leader Pictorial (British Columbia, Canada)

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