It was a proud day for 120 Aboriginal Grade 7 students from schools across the district when they gathered with the important adults in their lives to celebrate progressing from elementary to high school.
"My foster mom, social worker, friends, grand-mother, teacher and principal are all here for me today," said Mist Van Horne, a grade 7 student who will be heading to Churchill Secondary School next year. "I'm sad to leave my friends, but I'm looking forward to meeting new people too."
The students listened attentively as their elders offered words of advice and encouragement.
"This is a rite of passage and an important part of your lives, transitioning from elementary school to secondary school," said retiring District Principal for Aboriginal Education, Don Fiddler. "Although there will be lots of supports to help you along the next part of your journey, you're going to have to learn more about personal responsibility. We're going to challenge you to be the very best you can be."
Saqa Kage-Thevarge, a grade 12 graduating from Tupper, talked about his time in high school as a period of immense change and growth. "I began to develop a better understanding of who I was, how the world worked and just how much dedication to myself would be required to survive out there in the world."
Kage-Thevarge also had some advice to add. "Try not to worry about what everyone else is doing or what everyone else thinks of what you're doing, because at the end of the day the only person whose opinion really matters and the only person you have to impress is yourself," he said. "Be true to the dreams that you want to walk through. Find the time today to do the things you will thank yourself for tomorrow."
Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell spoke about how this celebration reminded him of the legends of transformation told by First Nations families across the land. "We draw forward those traditions and apply them everyday in our lives, the best way we know how."
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