The Grand Entry by Amiskwaciy Academy’s 2014 High School graduates brought the crowd to its feet and smiles to the faces of the many proud family members who attended the school’s annual graduation ceremony and feast on Thursday afternoon, June 5th. Accompanied by Elders, community partners, Edmonton Public School representatives and other dignitaries, the 22 graduates beamed as they made their way to the podium, the cheers of family, friends, teachers, peers and supporters echoing throughout the room.
“Graduates,” said Amiskwaciy Elder Francis Whiskeyjack after welcoming the crowd with an opening prayer and honour song, “you have worked long and hard to reach the success that you have today; you should all be very proud of yourselves. This is only one step in your quest for knowledge. Choose the path to your future wisely and remember we are always here to support you; may the Creator bless you in all you do.”
Throughout the afternoon Social Studies teacher and Master of Ceremonies Michael Borowiecki introduced a number of speakers, entertainers, students and community partners. After an upbeat introductory performance by several members of the Métis Child and Family dance group, greetings and congratulations were offered by Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Ray Martin.
During the course of the afternoon graduating students were honoured, congratulated and offered many words of wisdom by a caring group of invited speakers.
“I pass along advice that was given to me by my father many years ago,” noted Amiskwaciy Elder and Executive Director of Metis Child and Family Services, Don Langford. “Take a moment to decide what you will do in the future because what you do will define you as you continue to grow. Follow your dreams; make good choices, choose to persevere and remember, those choices are yours to make.”
Edmonton Public Schools (EPS) Superintendent Darrell Robertson told the graduating students that they are now part of the “long standing tradition of excellence in education,” that Edmonton’s Public School system has maintained since its inception. “Amiskwaciy Academy has provided you with an holistic education by connecting traditional Aboriginal
knowledge with the contemporary world. The Elders, committed teaching staff and community partners have taken a harmonious approach to teaching to instill respect and understanding of the connectedness of our world and all things in it. You have demonstrated pride in your school, culture and studies while learning important life lessons that will prepare you for your future. You have acquired strength in your character, wisdom and a passion for learning. As you move forward I hope you continue that quest for knowledge and serve as a role model in the Aboriginal community. Each of you has the ability to accomplish extraordinary things; the future is yours.”
FNMI Liaison Naim Cardinal has been with the Centre High Campus for the past three years working with the support team for Indigenous students. He’s also worked with Amiskwaciy students in various capacities and in numerous projects. He told the 22 graduates to “speak from the heart, follow your dreams and keep your feet firmly on the ground – or you might get swept away. Give thanks to your supporters and to the Creator. Stay humble and always approach everything you do with an open mind. Don’t judge your mistakes too harshly; learn from them and carry on. You have completed Grade 12; you have graduated and are already a success; now go forth and continue along the positive path you have already created for yourself.”
Before the presentation to graduates by Elders Don Langford and Francis Whiskeyjack, and Amiskwaciy Principal Fred Hines, Keynote Speaker Bernie Makokis took to the podium. Educated at the University of Calgary, Mr. Makokis currently a Homeward Trust Board Member, also attended Yale University in New Haven, Conneticut as well as other schools in both Oklahoma and California.
“A beautiful thing is happening here today; after years of hard work and determination you are graduating from high school. Remain true to yourselves and never give up your dreams and aspirations; the foundation of your future lies in what you build today. Believe in yourselves and focus on things you can achieve; stay mentally, emotionally and physically strong. Many of you will go on to further education in colleges and universities across Alberta and beyond; you still have work to do and much to accomplish. Take what you have learned here at Amiskwaciy Academy and apply yourselves in all you do.”
Teacher Terrace Mah told the students that he was going to miss their input and participation at the school and encouraged them all to keep in touch with their teachers and Elder Whiskeyjack.
“We’ve spent a lot time together in the classroom, on field trips and in a variety of tournaments and special outings. You have all done well and I wish you the same success as you step into the future. You are all a part of the Amiskwaciy Family and you always will be. I and all of the other teachers are very proud of you and we support you in whatever path you choose to follow; please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing.”
Breanna Makokis received a $1,000 RBC Royal Eagle Award for outstanding academic accomplishment while 2014 Valedictorian Julia Gladue was honoured with a $1,500 award for outstanding educational achievement from the Royal Glenora Rotary Club. Teacher Miro Savic was presented with the governor General’s Academic Medal while the Helping Hands award was bestowed on teacher Laurie Sorensen.
“There are no words to express how grateful and thankful I am to have attended such an amazing, wonderful and caring school,” stated 17 year old Valedictorian Julia Gladue. Excerpts from her inspirational message can be read here.
Principal Fred Hines closed the comments by noting how proud he is of “each and every student” in the school. To the graduates he said, “Please know that you represent the pride of this school and your Aboriginal community. Amiskwaciy Academy, its teachers, support staff and administration acknowledge the hard work and difficulties that you have taken on in order to become part of the schools distinguished graduates. From this day forward, please know that our doors are always open to you. We hope that you will consider Amiskwaciy Academy as part of your family and allow us to share in your future success.”
Amiskwaciy Academy is an Edmonton Public School program of choice that provides solid academic programming within an Aboriginal context. The school, which is open to students of all backgrounds and cultures, honours the Aboriginal community and reflects its cultures, values, ancestral knowledge and traditions in achieving excellence in education. In doing so it provides, with the help of school and community Elders, a meaningful and balanced curriculum, bringing together the uniqueness of Aboriginal cultures, knowledge and languages in a positive and quality educational setting.
by John Copley