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Flying High: Clippers women’s volleyball team hold grad ceremony at 39,000 feet

Cancellation of classes as team travelled home from national championship leads to special gesture by WestJet flight crew
When the Briercrest Clippers women’s volleyball team saw their season come to an end at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association national championships, there was still plenty to look forward to back home.

Especially for the team’s four fourth-year players, the chance to wrap up their classes and graduate from the local college and seminary was an opportunity all were looking forward to.

But moments before they were to board their flight from Quebec City, dire news came from back home in Caronport: Briercrest College was suspending on-campus education effective that Monday, and the graduation ceremony for Apr. 17-18 was likely to be cancelled.

And just like that, not only was the Clippers’ season over, but for many their academic careers as well – an especially tough situation for seniors Ashley Erickson, Rebecca Garner, Kirsty Kindrachuk and Elicia Weibe.

Disappointment and sadness followed, to say the least

But WestJet was having none of it, as revealed in an article by Julie Thiessen on detailing exactly what happened next.

“It was a whirlwind of finishing our volleyball careers and then that night finding out that school was closing for the rest of the year and we were going to have to do online classes,” Erickson said. “No grad ceremony, no athletic banquet, everything was an abrupt ending from that day.”

Team chaplain Joelle Epp mentioned the situation to a WestJet flight attendant, setting off a chain of events that would lead to one of the most memorable graduation ceremonies in recent history.

“As soon as they heard her say that, they got so excited and started asking us to write down the degrees we would be receiving,” Erickson said. “About five minutes later they started our impromptu, 39,000 feet above ground, graduation ceremony.”

As described by the website, using the on-flight announcement system, the crew Flight 655 called out the names and diplomas of each senior player, humming “Pomp and Circumstance” as they walked the center aisle to receive homemade diplomas that read “West Jet Diploma of Excellence.”

“It was honestly the sweetest act during such a confusing and changing time in our lives,” said Kindrachuk. “But as small and impromptu [as] the ‘ceremony’ may have been, it was so kind that they took the time to do something out of the ordinary and celebrate with us during a flight.

“The four of us felt extremely blessed to experience that, and we need to recognize these small acts of kind customer service that make people feel valued and important during times like these!”

And the Clippers received some good news upon returning home – they would graduate after all, during a re-scheduled ceremony this fall.

For the full article, including video of the ceremony, be sure to click here.

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