Zoe Newson, front left, Alexis Cumpstone and Breyn Banks (back) are graduating from Vic High in June and have definite ideas about the direction of their future. Tim Collins/Victoria News

Victoria High School grads set to follow in some illustrious footsteps

Some real similarities between current and former grads

Tim Collins/Victoria News

With graduation fast approaching, Vic High principal Aaron Parker is very positive about the future and the role this year’s nearly 200 graduates will play in the world.

“These young people are truly remarkable and I predict they will go on to make a substantial mark on the world,” he said. “If their early accomplishments are any indicator, and I think they are, these students will be the ones honoured by future generations of students, joining the ranks of a host of esteemed alumni of Vic High.”

Parker offered the names of three students as examples, and we’ve taken the liberty of making some comparisons between those students and the Vic High alumni in whose footsteps these students may follow.

Dr. Norma Mickelson began her career in 1945 as a teacher after graduating from Vic High. She went on to earn her PhD in 1967 from the University of Washington before returning to Victoria to become the first female president of the UVic Faculty Association and a reknowned advocate of equity issues in education.

In the same mold, there’s Vic High student Zoe Newson. In Grade 8, she began displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder, a condition that led to severe depression followed by manic episodes, and saw her admitted to Ledger House for psychiatric care on two occasions.

Four years later, Newson is set to graduate with honours. She is a social action advocate who has raised awareness and funds for a variety of social causes. She has also become an advocate for mental health awareness, and is a supporter and frequent speaker for the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island. She volunteers her time with Ledger House and plans to go on to a career in education.

“As an educator I want to get across the lesson that it’s okay to not be okay,” she said. “Everyone has something going on and I want to be able to support those kids and help others understand that, with support, we can make a difference in those lives.”

Another Vic high alumni, Dr. Stewart Smith, went on to become the vice-president of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. His work on the nature of matter/antimatter and his contributions at the CERN collider have helped to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

Alexis Cumpstone has also set her sights to the stars. She’s graduating from Vic High with a practically perfect academic record and has won a scholarship for leadership and constant achievement, an entrance scholarship to UVic and a nomination for the Schulich leaders award. An accomplished musician, Cumpstone also writes short stories and has participated in a plethora of school groups, including one commitment that has her cleaning out the school’s compost bins for the sake of the environment.

“I’ve become very interested in physics and will be going on to UVic to study particle physics or astrophysics,” she said. “Men have dominated science and technology, but I feel pretty confident going into the field. There are discoveries to be made and I want to be a part of that.”

In an era when sports writing was quite dull, Vic High alumni Jim Taylor fused wit, humour and creativity to revolutionize the profession. His career got him nominated to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and his writing made him a national household name for decades.

It’s a career Breyn Banks hopes to emulate as he graduates as this year’s Vic High valedictorian. After graduation, he plans to go to Camosun College to study digital communication and then on to BCIT for training in broadcast journalism. In the meantime, Banks is sharpening his wit through participation with groups like the die Gorillas Improv in Berlin and the Our Name Here Improv group in Victoria.

“I enjoy talking and I love making people laugh. My father did colour commentary for hockey and I always thought it looked like so much fun. I guess I figured I should do something like that,” he said. In August, Banks is setting out for a trip to Greenland and the Arctic Circle as a result of a scholarship he won from Power to Be.


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