It’s the end of the road for graduates of Whistler Secondary School, and three of the school’s top students look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
All three are going in different directions — one is pursuing a music career; another an Olympic dream; yet another will be heading further up the academic ladder by pursuing an education at a major Canadian university. But all of them, no matter where they’re going, are going to miss their time in high school.
“I’m a little daunted, I’m a little nervous,” said Ali Milner, a 2008 graduate. “I feel like it’s time to move on and I feel like I wish I had done more and taken more courses.”
Milner, 18, has already made a name for herself as a burgeoning musician. She’s a recording artist with EMI and her music, self-composed jazz and rhythm and blues pieces, has earned praise from artists such as Sarah McLachlan and Michael Bublé.
She is a regular performer. One of her most notable performances was at a cultural festival in China, where she played on a stage before 60,000 people in a performance that was broadcast to 90 million viewers worldwide.
“It wasn’t that nerve-wracking, because I wasn’t going to see them ever again,” she said. “There was like 10 dancers behind me, and like pyro and pelicans on a moat on the stage. It was crazy, the Chinese do it huge.”
This summer, Milner will be spending five weeks at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, a school that has counted prominent artists such as Branford Marsalis and Melissa Etheridge, as well as producer Quincy Jones among its alumni.
In addition to her time at the college, she’ll be working on a second CD after her 2006 debut, Venus . Though much of her work has been jazz-oriented, this time she’ll be seeking out a new sound.
As for her university prospects, she has been accepted to the University of Victoria and Humber College in Toronto, with scholarship offers from both schools. However she’s waiting on an acceptance to the University of Toronto to decide where she wants to go, and may take time off to do more music.
Not all of this year’s graduates will be looking to do more school, at least not yet. Victoria Whitney, who’s graduating along with Milner, will keep doing what she’s done all through high school — skiing.
After nursing a knee injury that kept her out of competition last season, Whitney is making a comeback as the only female member of the B.C. Ski Team. She has already made a name for herself in numerous competitions, notably the 2006-07 Mars B.C. Cup race series, where she placed fourth in the women’s giant slalom. She also once placed fourth behind three members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team at a Senior Nationals event in Whistler.
“Skiing is just kind of what I do all the time, I’ve missed a lot of school so far for skiing,” she said. “I never really was planning on going to university right after, so I’ll just take it as far as I can.”
Though she certainly has the Olympics in her sights, she knows she’ll have to keep working at it if she wants to qualify.
“It just depends on who’s skiing fast in the weeks before the Olympics,” she said. “It’s not based on the year before or two years before, it’s just in the month or two prior.”
Jenya Dudley, meanwhile, has a lot more studying to look forward to. A student with one of the top GPAs in her class for all her years in high school, she has been accepted to the University of British Columbia and will be studying in the Faculty of Science come September.
Asked how it feels to be leaving school, Dudley didn’t hold back.
“(I’m) kind of excited because I get to do something new for a change,” she said. “It’s nice to do something else, and there’s nothing more we could possibly get out of this.”
In addition to her acceptance, Dudley has received a $4,000 entrance scholarship from UBC, an award that recognizes students who are leaders in a variety of areas, including artistic endeavours, community service and school activities.
When she starts at UBC in September, she’ll be taking courses in physics, chemistry, math and geology. Though she’s quite aware of the amount of studying she’ll have to do to keep up with a difficult program, she’s confident that she’ll do well.
“I really like doing the sciences and I kind of have a knack for it,” Dudley said. “I think I could do some cool things with it.”
These students’ endeavours, scholarly, musical or otherwise, are certain to keep them busy in the months and years ahead, though all of them will miss home from time to time.
When asked what she’ll miss most about Whistler Secondary School, Milner mentioned the sense of community she had while in high school.
“You get to be so close to everyone because it’s such a small community and such a small high school,” she said. “It’s fun and people support you in everything that you’re trying to do.”