Graduation is a major milestone, and for many students it is about defying the odds and making their education journey their own. Last Thursday, families, Elders, and District staff gathered at the Italian Cultural Centre to honour and celebrate the graduating class of 2022 at the District-wide Indigenous Achievement Celebration Ceremony.
“After a few years of pause in our lives, it is so wonderful to be together again to celebrate the students this evening,” says Alec Dan, member of the Musqueam Nation.
At the start of the ceremony, Dan sang the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam Welcome Song. The words in the song are written in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language and translate to “Welcome Respected Ones”. The room was filled with warmth and enthusiasm with drumming and Eagle Song Dancers performances by members of the Squamish Nation, as well as by an Metis Fiddler.
Speeches by superintendent Helen McGregor, Board chair Janet Fraser, and District principal of the Indigenous Education Department, Chas Desjarlais, followed. Each shared words of encouragement for the class of 2022 and wished them well as they embark on their new paths.
“Thank you for your hard work students. Don’t forget, you got yourselves here,” says Desjarlais. “I raise my hands to you. This is just the beginning.”
Amanda White, District knowledge-keeper also shared a few words to support the graduates.
“As a District, we have a commitment to continue reconciliation, especially for this amazing group of young people.”
White has been with the District for over 28 years and plans to retire in the coming year. Staff and students in the room gave her a big cheer at the end of her welcome speech in gratitude for her contributions to the District and her teachings.
Before walking across the stage, graduates heard from their valedictorian, Kiera Yeomans, Grade 12 student at Britannia Secondary. “To all of our amazing graduates, I am so proud that we made it this far, especially throughout the hardship from the pandemic,” says Yeomans.
Prior to the ceremony, Yeomans also made a special appearance on CBC On The Coast to share what graduating this year means to her.
A highlight for every graduation ceremony, students proudly walked across the stage while the cheers and applause of their their families, friends and educators echoed throughout the room.
Everyone at the District congratulates the Indigenous graduates of 2022. It is an incredible accomplishment, but graduating is only the beginning. To each graduate, staff wish an amazingly bright future ahead and share in the pride of this, a big step on their journeys.