Class of 2024 Valedictorian Puts Focus on Community

May 6, 2024
Convocation 2024 Validictorian Holly Macris One

Selkirk College Convocation 2024 will take place at the Castlegar Campus on May 30 with two different ceremonies that celebrate the graduating class. Contemporary Music & Technology Program graduate Jay Porteous and Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program graduate Holly Macris have been chosen as the Class of 2024 valedictorians. We will feature the stories of both learners on our website in the lead-up to the event. Here is Holly’s story…

Carrying forward the power of community nurtured at Selkirk College into the broader world post-graduation is the ambition for Class of 2024 valedictorian Holly Macris.

Chosen to represent her peers at Selkirk College Convocation 2024 on May 30, Macris is a graduate of the two-year Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program. A quiet leader within her cohort, she is a firm believer that all 1,033 students who will receive credentials this year across all college programs now possess the education and skills to make tangible contributions.  

“It’s easy to see the problems in the world as something too big to have an impact on, but if everyone makes a small change then we have the collective power to make a big difference,” says the 30-year-old. “People come from all over the world to attend Selkirk College and I really believe that our graduating class has this ability. If we can take what our college experience has given us in whatever area we are in and work to make a difference, then we can have a really big impact.”

Ready for a New Educational Adventure

Originally from Australia, Macris grew up rural Batemans Bay on the South Coast where access to both the South Pacific Ocean and inland national parks shaped a love of nature. Her family’s passion for winter sport also provided a chance to travel for ski adventures in the United States while growing up.

After graduating high school, Macris dutifully attended a large university where she quickly found the massive lecture halls did not jibe with her learning style or academic ambitions. Parting ways with post-secondary, she traveled to Japan to work for a couple years as a ski instructor and then crossed the Pacific Ocean to continue her winter work at Whistler Blackcomb. 

Convocation 2024 Validictorian Holly Macris Two
Class of 2024 valedictorian Holly Macris sits along the shore of the Columbia River at the Castlegar Campus where she spent time over the last two years enjoying the nature of the region and taking the odd dip in the crisp mountain water.

While building on her training in the ski industry and embracing the stellar four-season recreation opportunities Canada affords, the COVID-19 pandemic brought it all to a screeching halt in March 2020. Out of work and forced to return to Australia, when pondering her next steps Macris recalled a friend telling her about the program offerings in Selkirk College’s School of Environment & Geomatics.

Ready for a change, Macris returned to Canada and in September 2022 began a new adventure in education. 

“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know how I would do coming back to post-secondary,” she says. “Ten years is a big gap, so I had no idea what to expect. It was a mix of excitement and fear. But after the first week, I started to realize this is exactly where I wanted to be. If you follow your heart, then you will end up in the right place and that is what I have found here.”

Living in on-campus housing and determined to make the most of her time at Selkirk College, Macris began contributing to her new community. Working for Sustainable Selkirk’s composting program on the Castlegar Campus and hired as student driver for the college’s van fleet that transports peers for both field trips and student housing grocery runs, Macris is lauded by those she works with for her positive approach.  

Inside the classroom and while participating in the numerous outdoor hands-on learning labs the program provides, Macris is a star student who pours energy into her own work and helps boost those around her. Recognized by faculty for her team approach to learning, Macris is quick to credit her mentors with creating the perfect educational environment. 

“It’s been amazing,” she says of her last two years. “For such a small college, we really attract some incredible instructors that are passionate about their areas of expertise. That they are willing to share that with students in a smaller college, that provides a real sense of community where you feel supported by instructors who take the time to get to know you. That has been a big part of my success here, that sense of community is a major component.”

A Brighter Future for All

Graduating from a program with a variety of career pathways, Macris has already landed her first job. Just two weeks after writing her last final exam at Selkirk College, she made herself to Canada’s north where she is working for the Department of Fisheries & Oceans based out of Whitehorse, Yukon. Hired as an aquatics technician, Macris’s work includes sonar monitoring in areas near the Arctic Circle.  

Taking it one small step at a time, Macris is drawn to work that helps protect wildlife. An extension of her upbringing, life experience and education, she is eager to work towards better outcomes for the planet. This is a message she is delivering to those in all the different programs that make up the Class of 2024. 

“We have had the chaos of the COVID years and we are the first class graduating in what is more of a sense of normal,” Macris says. “It’s been very individual for such a long time and to see everything a bit more as community will help us move into a better future. I feel we are at a time where the world is truly starting to see we need to make changes in the way we are living. It’s a hopeful time and a time of opportunity for people graduating because there are lots of jobs for those who want to make a difference. We have an opportunity to be part of a change.”

The ink on her Selkirk College diploma is still fresh, but Macris envisions more formal learning on the horizon. Though work is a priority now, completing a degree in wildlife biology at university is part of the bigger picture.  

“I came back to post-secondary with a feeling that I needed to challenge myself because there is more that I can learn, give back and contribute to the world,” she says. “I came to Selkirk College knowing I wanted to learn and I am leaving knowing there is so, so much more to learn. My curiously has grown over the last two years. It’s about not putting that limit on yourself about having to achieve something by a certain time. I think we can continue learning throughout our lives and keep improving ourselves, that’s really something that I will leave with after my two years.”

Learn more about the School of Environment & Geomatics.

SDG 14 Life Below Water

 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.