The Class of 2016 from Maaqtusiis School in Ahousaht.
By Denise Titian
Hundreds of people filled the Maaqtusiis School Gym to witness 14 graduates receive their high school diplomas. The grads entered the gym on the arms of escorts, taking their seats on the beautifully-decorated stage.
Principal Joe McHale acted as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed everyone after an opening prayer from elder Betty Keitlah.
Speeches were made by local education champions Rebecca Atleo and Pam Frank. Each encouraged the graduates to continue on their learning journey and reminded them of the opportunities available at post-secondary institutions.
McHale said this year’s grad was especially poignant because it was the Grade 8 class that started in Ahousaht’s now five-year-old high school. The class represented a successful, full cycle of the Maaqtusiis School’s education program.
“They are the first batch of Grade 8’s when this school opened and 90 per cent of them finished, making that a better graduation rate than the province’s 86 per cent graduation rate,” said McHale.
He went on to say that four of the graduates were older students who came back to school. He thanked them for their perseverance and for setting an example for others.
When it came time to present awards, McHale said that some of the awards needed to wait for several months, after all required information is available. They were, however, able to hand out some awards, like a $1,000 scholarship that went to Beaulah Thomas to help her get what she needs in culinary school.
The Dr. George Wikinanish Louie Memorial scholarship went to Earl George, and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust scholarship went to Beaulah Thomas for maintaining her excellent academic standing of 80 per cent.
Beaulah Thomas also won the school Honour Stole for having the highest grade point average of the class of 2016.
Graduate Hughie Clarke started his Valedictorian address first in the Ahousaht language where he introduced himself and told the people who his family is. He talked about the love he has for his parents and how they’ve inspired him to work hard and stay in school.
Clarke thanked his teachers who gave him encouragement when he felt like giving up. He thanked teacher Ketchie Frank for giving him the time he needed to complete his assignments.
“At times I didn’t think I’d make it, but she’d tell me it’s better late than never to get my assignments in,” he shared.
Clarke said he plans to continue his education and hopes someday to return home. To his fellow graduates, he said, “I am happy to have graduated with these guys.”
Members of the Ahousaht Education Authority and school staff congratulated each student as they came to accept their diplomas.
The community gathered later that evening for a celebration dinner and to give families the opportunity to make personal presentations to their graduates.
The celebration ended with a dance at the Ahousaht youth center.
The Maaqtusiis School Class of 2016 are: Jason Adam Campbell, McKenzie Charlie, Hughie Clarke, Dawn Frank, Miranda Frank, Russell Frank, Tristan John, Beaulah Thomas, Felix Thomas, Fred Thomas, Michael Titian, Kylee Sam, and Earl Sutherland.