Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) recently posted 2020 graduation videos for Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and Pelican Falls First Nations High School on its website due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we are not able to have an in-person graduation at this time,” says Dobi-Dawn Frenette, director of education at NNEC, during a May 29 phone interview. “Our plan is to bring our graduates together once it is safe to do so.”
Frenette says the graduation videos were released on June 5 to recognize and honour the graduates from both high schools.
“This in no way is meant to replace our in-person graduation,” Frenette says. “It is our intent to hold a graduation for our graduates to recognize the hard work they have done as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The PFFNHS graduation video includes an honour song by Victor and Romaine Lyon and comments from educators and leaders such as PFFNHS principal Darrin Head, NNEC executive director Norma Kejick and Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox.
“Congratulations Pelican Falls First Nations High School graduating class of 2020 — you did it, well done, be proud of your accomplishments,” Head says. “Graduates, I look forward to the day when we can meet face-to-face once again for our graduating ceremony. Until that time, take care, be well and always follow your dreams. Remember, we are always Pelican Falls Timberwolves.”
Kejick congratulated all of the graduates from PFFNHS and DFC during her comments.
“This is not how we expected to celebrate your accomplishment on graduating and getting your diploma,” Kejick says. “But this is what it has come down to for us to stay safe. When we are able to and when it is safe to do so we will bring the students back to celebrate their graduation ceremonies so we could do it face-to-face. But at this time this is how we will celebrate by congratulating each and every one of you by video while staying safe.”
Fox says he looks forward to congratulating the graduates in person when the graduation ceremonies are held.
“I hope I get to shake your hand or give you a hug and say that I’m proud of you and you did a great job,” Fox says. “I’m just as proud as your parents, your family, your loved ones. And finally from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation executive, Grand Chief Fiddler, myself and others, we are proud of you and keep up the good work.”
The DFC graduation video includes an opening prayer by Elder Bella Patayash and comments from DFC valedictorian Karlee Meekis and educators and leaders such as DFC principal Sharon Angeconeb and Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“Congrats, we finally did it,” Meekis says. “But with everything happening we should still be proud of ourselves. As cliche as it may sound, we still have so much life to live and don’t forget, we still have our future. I want to thank my friends and family for being there and supporting me throughout high school and I also want to thank every single staff member of DFC. I really wish things turned out differently — I’m sorry for everyone who looked forward to this day, the grads themselves and anyone who was just excited to see us toss our caps in the air.”
Angeconeb congratulated the DFC graduates and stressed that they are all leaders.
“During the time you attended DFC you showed great courage and determination to reach your high school diploma even in the middle of a pandemic,” Angeconeb says. “This is in keeping with your grad theme this year, that you are the new ancestors. I am very proud of you and your achievements and I am confident that you will continue to see great success in all of your endeavours.”
Fiddler also congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to look after themselves and to consider the pursuit of further education in the fall.
“We all need to keep moving forward, it does not end here,” Fiddler says. “The education journey is a lifelong one and I encourage you to keep going in the fall. Congratulations on behalf of the NAN executive council — we care about you, we love you and we wish you well.”