Every year, the Marc Garneau valedictorian is chosen through a competitive application process. Applicants begin by filling out an application form which requires the signatures of ten graduating students, two teacher references, and three reasons why the candidate believes they deserve the position. The candidate’s academics and extracurricular involvement are then reviewed by the commencement committee. The committee looks for a strong academic performance and a high level of extracurricular involvement to ensure that the applicant’s achievements are representative of the entire graduating class. Lastly, voting lasts for just over a week. Graduating students elect the individual who they want to represent them.
Saffiya Lulat was selected to represent this year’s Graduating Class of 2016. Saffiya was chosen amongst hundreds of graduating students to make a speech at the annual graduation ceremony, which will be held at Ryerson Theatre on 29 June 2016. She believes that although all the candidates were very qualified, her “ability to equally socialize with the different groups and communities” was crucial in making her this year’s valedictorian.
Saffiya has also been an active member of various clubs and committees, both in and out of the school community. She is currently the President of the Muslim Student Association, and a member of the Syrian Club, the International Show Committee, and Habitat for Humanity. Along with her many in-school commitments, Saffiya takes time out of her schedule to volunteer at mosques, and for the Toronto Police. When she’s not volunteering, she enjoys reading and absolutely adores eating. In fact, she is known as ‘cookie’ by many of her friends because of her intense love for chocolate chip cookies.
Saffiya came from Valley Park Middle School, and admitted that the new atmosphere of Garneau was daunting when she was in Grade 9. However, she gradually became more comfortable. This allowed her to “put herself out there”, a characteristic she believes was key in her election as valedictorian. “In Grade 9, I used to hang out with my buddies from middle school, but as we moved on and chose different classes, we all split,” she said. “Throughout high school I learned to make new friends, try new things, and take advantage of any opportunities that came my way.”
When asked about what she’ll miss after graduating from Garneau, Saffiya replied, “It’s my friends, classmates, and teachers, like Ms. Goldenberg, Ms. Woodley and Ms. Alam.” She said that the teachers helped her reach her goals.
Next year, Saffiya will be attending University of Guelph-Humber’s Justice Studies program, and she aspires to attend law school after completing her undergraduate degree. With her final year at Garneau coming to an end, she hopes to use her valedictorian speech to commemorate the hundreds of high school journeys which will be ending this year. As well, she hopes to inspire her peers to continue to strive to do their best and to appreciate the accomplishments which have allowed them to come this far.
As advice to aspiring valedictorians, Saffiya said, “Make sure you speak to everyone, get to know them, and let them get to know you.” But as a word of caution, she added, “While you write your speech, you’ll be trying to impress everyone but remember, they chose you to represent them. Don’t lose your touch along the way.”
Saffiya Lulat has helped shape Garneau. Her strong involvements in the school community and her local neighborhood have created an impact in the lives of others. The Reckoner wishes Saffiya, along with all other students in the Graduating Class of 2016, the best of luck on their future endeavours.