Edmonton valedictorians: J. Percy Page’s Hunter Pawliuk

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Hunter was born and raised in Edmonton and growing up, hockey was the epicenter of his life. His earliest memories are of holding a hockey stick. He had the privilege of playing for the Maple Leaf Athletic Club for four years. He has always loved being active and has been part of many other teams for lacrosse, soccer and the school’s soccer and handball teams. He has been part of leadership roles on those teams, from assistants to captains, and he always wanted to be there for his teammates. He was the top academic student for Years 10 and 11. He volunteered for various sports fundraisers and helped with his school’s open days, which allowed him to mentor prospective students while expressing his passion for science and mathematics. Hunter will study biochemistry at the University of Alberta.

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Opening speech:

We’ve been told all our lives that high school is a very important time. The pressure to excel academically can often take away from our enjoyment of school. In an effort to get high grades, it is easy to overlook the events, activities, and moments with friends and peers. However, in writing this speech and reflecting on my experiences at J. Percy Page, I found myself focusing more on the memories I made with others than on numbers.

Yes, grades are important, but so is enjoying every moment we are given, aside from learning and memorizing unit circles. You should celebrate if you don’t know what a unit circle is. Memories stay with us, like when you would ask to go to the toilet or fill up your water when you would actually meet your friends in the hallway. Excuse me, teachers. Or the multitude of events that Student Leadership planned that created memories, ranging from bikeathon to various pit activities. As we transition into a new chapter in our lives, I encourage all of you to remember the good, even in difficult circumstances. Change is always scary, just like when we first walked through the doors of J. Percy Page, fresh out of a global pandemic.

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However, the growth and experiences we have all experienced in this season of our lives make the fear that comes with change worth it. The people we met, some of whom have now become our best friends, the laughter we shared in class when we had to pay attention, and of course the beautiful, wonderful exams and learning experiences that paved the way for our future ambitions. It can be so easy to focus only on the negatives, like how much homework you have or what an equation is.

But if we don’t know what that is yet, there may be cause for concern. However, when you spend your entire life just looking at the painful tasks, you forget to pause and appreciate everything that is happening around you. Our advice for the future is not to dwell on the challenges we will face. Instead, take a step back and spend time with your loved ones, participate in events, and focus on your hobbies. J. Percy Page let us experience that colorful life that goes beyond textbooks and pencils – a life decorated with lasting memories that will stay with us forever.

What’s your favorite thing about Edmonton?

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The Edmonton Public Library is where I often go. It’s a place to pursue my dreams and relax and live in a completely different world through a book. It never fails to keep my curiosity burning, while at the same time serving as a place where I can escape from the bustling atmosphere of school and athletics.

Who is your hero?

Without a doubt, my heroes are my parents. They sacrificed so much for my sister and me to have the best future possible. No matter how hard they worked, they always managed to put a smile on our faces. I am grateful to them for taking me to all those early morning practices and teaching me to get out of my comfort zone. They are truly the only reason I have all the amazing hobbies and opportunities that I have today.

What is your favorite quote or expression?

“The world is not perfect. But it is there for us and we are doing our best. And that makes it so beautiful.” – Roy Mustang, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

What word best describes your graduating class?

Resilient. We are one of the few who had to start our high school journey during a pandemic. A completely new environment mixed with adverse pressure and new experiences in high school is an uphill battle. Nevertheless, the masks and the six-foot distance never stopped us from making the most of our short but eternal time in high school. All the events and memories have made me realize that my graduating class has the perseverance to overcome anything that comes their way while smelling the flowers.

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We often hear that as a society we are more divided than in the past. How can young leaders bridge the differences between groups?

I believe that what we need is a unifying factor, and not one based on the premise of simply coming together. It must be for another cause, something bigger than ourselves. As tensions rise due to global conflicts, coupled with the catastrophic effects of climate change; I hope something will click in our minds. By looking beyond capital, territory, collective and individual differences, we can bridge the gap, enabling a better future for the next generation. It may take time, tremendous effort, and even watching the world we have now begin to crumble and change drastically before our eyes until we finally understand the severity of the sinkhole we find ourselves in. So when the time comes; I hope that you will see it too and that you will rise up and lend your support to this fundamental and essential ideal.

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