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'We are strong aboriginal people'
Class of 2017 will help shape the future of the town and the country, valedictorian

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, June 8, 2017

Graduation in a community like Inuvik seems to come with a special level of recognition for student achievement.

NNSL photograph

Graduates line up on the stairs outside of East Three Secondary School. The full graduating class, not in order, is as follows: Shae-Lyn Allen, AnnaMay Andre-Niditchie, Kolbi Bernhardt, Jackson Christie, Darryl Cockney-Goose, Wallace Goose, Hanna Gordon, Adrienne Jerome-Greenland, Cody Greenland, Ashlyn Hendrick, Davey Inglangasuk, Harry Kaglik, Shiniah Kasook, John Joseph Kaye, Aaron Kunnizzie, Cilena Martin, Paul O'Connor, Shyla Phillips-Traer, Gloria Rogers, Kieran Ritias, Darcie Setzer, Kayleigh Storr and Nina Verbonac. - Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Jackson Christie, the valedictorian for East Three Secondary School's 2017 class, made reference to that in his speech at the graduation ceremony Saturday, June 3.

"The majority of us are aboriginal graduates," said Christie. "The aboriginal rate of people graduating in Canada is just over 40 per cent. We beat those odds."

He called his class the indigenous future of Canada.

"We are strong aboriginal people," said Christie. "We have challenged each other to succeed."

He likened the journey to finish high school to climbing a mountain, saying students had to help each other to make it up.

"We had no tools and no safety harnesses," said Christie. "Alone, we are stuck at the base looking at the cold, sharp, dark mountainside. It took a lot of frustration to realize this mountain could not be scaled without the help of others."

Those who stay in Inuvik will become the backbone of the community in the future, he said.

Principal Deborah Reid, trying not to make too many eagle metaphors in reference to the school's mascot, said she was honoured to stand before the class in her last year at the school.

"I know that your parents will agree with me that I'm very happy to see you here, completely impressed and even maybe a little surprised that you made it here," she laughed.

She asked that students focus on treating people with kindness in their adult lives.

Speakers from just about every organization in town took turns congratulating the graduates and giving them advice for the next stage in their lives.

Vice-principal Lorne Guy, also leaving the school after this year, told students to be safe on their celebratory weekend and thank someone who helped them get to where they are.

"Take that wave of encouragement that you have received and pass it on to someone you see in need of help," he said.

Twenty-three students graduated this year from East Three. There were 17 last year.

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