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Intergenerational Strength: The Indigenous Graduation Class of 2024

| Categories: Events & Celebrations, Indigenous, Student Success, Indigenous
Indigenous graduation

This month at Vancouver Italian Cultural Centre, a sense of excitement, community, and togetherness permeated the air. Families chatted in anticipation, waiting for the ceremony to begin. The celebration of 160 Indigenous students ­– more than half of whom were on the honour roll– marks the end of their high school journey as they transition to the next phase of their lives.

The ceremony began with drumming in the students from Coastal Wolfpack and a warm welcome from Morgan Guerin of Musqueam. Guerin reminded the graduates of their ancestors’ teachings, saying, “for many of you, it’s been thirteen years to get to where you are…but you did it. Our ancestors teach us that your learnings, the things that become part of you, are sacred,” he said. 

Gabriel George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Latashkinem Williams of Squamish Nation, each performed songs to start the achievement celebration speeches off in a good way.

Valedictorian Cheyanna Wilson of Britannia Secondary School took to the stage, dedicating her speech not only to her fellow graduates but also to their grandparents who survived an era with no support or encouragement. 

This is not just graduating high school or just moving on to the next thing. This is graduation, Indigenous kids graduating,” she declared.

Cheyanna continued, “we stand here today as a testament to our resilience. Our ancestors faced unimaginable challenges, yet they persevered. We carry their strength within us.”  

The valedictorian also thanked the Indigenous Education workers who supported her during her time at school, offering a safe space and guidance during this part of her educational journey.

Board chair Victoria Jung and superintendent Helen McGregor echoed these sentiments, emphasizing this monumental milestone for everyone in the room, including the families, caregivers, and educators celebrating here today. 

“As you move forward, carry with you the knowledge that you are the leaders of tomorrow. You have the power to inspire change and make a positive impact on our community and beyond,” Jung advised. 

McGregor expressed hope that the graduates would continue to explore, learn, and grow in ways authentic to them.

Indigenous Education Director of Instruction, Chas Desjarlais read a poignant poem by Nikita Gill, a tribute to the graduates’ ancestors and a call to action for the graduates to be loud, be everything, and make their ancestors proud.

Your ancestors did not survive
everything that nearly ended them
for you to shrink yourself
to make someone else

This sacrifice is your warcry,
be loud,
be everything
and make them proud. 

The ceremony ended and then the Snotty Nose Rez Kids took the stage, their performance of BBE and Bougie Natives brought everyone to their feet. But the most joyful moment was the pride filled room as achievement awards were presented and the graduates walked across the stage to the ecstatic cheers of families and friends.

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