Seven graduates marked the completion of high school in Ahousaht on June 29, including Jolyn Frank, Jaylin Keitlah, Ashley Thomas, Dominic Campbell, Shauntay Sam, Nigel Charlie, and Shakayla Thomas.
Seven Grade 12 students completed their secondary school education in Ahousaht and they were brought together in front of the community in celebration on June 29.
The graduates were escorted into the school gymnasium and seated on the stage in front of proud friends and family.
The students were treated to a blast from the past as former elementary school teacher Colleen Marchant shared treasured memories of them. Marchant told the crowd that she taught the class of 2017 back when they were in the first and second grades. She said that while she taught them how to read and write they taught her about their culture.
She advised them to move forward in the next chapter of their lives with courage and confidence. “You may leave this stage frightened and excited all at the same time…you know you have the ability to succeed,” she told them. Marchant reminded them that they come from a close-knit community that they should stay connected with as they move forward.
Rebecca Atleo, Ahousaht Director of Education, congratulated the graduates and urged them to enroll in post-secondary education as soon as possible.
“Education is the key to open those doors of opportunity,” she told them. “We’ve always maintained that we want Ahousaht jobs going to Ahousaht people,” she said, adding that she regrets that funding for trades is not available.
Ahousaht Education Authority board member Darlene Dick reiterated Atleo’s wish to see the graduates earn college degrees.
“We need you,” she told them, “it’s not a want – it’s a need.” She went on to say that she is proud of each and every graduate and is related to them all.
Class valedictorian Ashely Thomas introduced herself in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, naming herself, her parents and grandparents. And then, in English, she said, “Well, guys, we made it!” to a loud round of applause.
She reminisced about growing up with her classmates throughout their elementary and high school years – the pinky promises and bouts of stubbornness, then getting over it all.
She thanked the school staff and singled out one that is retiring this year.
“Thank you, Don (Frewing), for believing in me when I sometimes didn’t believe in myself,” said Thomas.
Principal Joe McHale went on to present placebo diplomas to each student, telling them that their actual diplomas won’t be in the community until August.
Each graduate was given a commemorative graduation jacket, a gift from the Ahousaht Education Authority.
Later that evening the community celebrated with a dinner followed by family speeches and presentations to their graduates.
The Maaqtusiis High School Class of 2017: Jolyn Frank, Jaylin Keitlah, Ashley Thomas, Dominic Campbell, Shauntay Sam, Nigel Charlie, and Shakayla Thomas.