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Proud family: (left) Hedley and Mary Hopkins and (right) Lyle and Mary Trimble smile in support of Melanie, Loretta and Paul Hopkins of Invuik at the Cape Breton University commencement ceremonies in May.

Graduation in triplicate

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 04/05) - It's said good things come in threes and for the Hopkins family, that means graduation.

Loretta, husband Paul and four-year-old daughter Melanie each completed an education milestone in May before the family returned to Inuvik after a two-year absence.

"I would never have been able to finish if they hadn't been there," Loretta said of her family which moved to Cape Breton in 2003 while she completed 25 credits towards her BA in community studies and a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Former insurance company manager, Paul, decided to earn a certificate in Refrigeration from Marconi College at the same time while Melanie completed preschool.

All three graduated in May, with Loretta returning to her former position as manager of programs for the NWT Housing Corporation. Paul is looking for work in his new field while Melanie prepares for kindergarten in the fall.

"I never say never any more," said Loretta. "It took me 13 years to go back and finish my degrees, but I did it."

Given educational leave by her employer, the decision to attend Cape Breton University was simple once the family learned of the school's day care.

"If CBU didn't have a campus day care I wouldn't have gone there," said Loretta, who had made previous attempts through distance education to finish the degrees she started at Chemainus Native College years before.

Not only did the service give mom and dad worry-free time to attend classes, it also provided some comfort.

"It was so great, if I was stressed I'd go in and see Melanie and she was my stress relief," said Loretta.

For Melanie, it was two years of new friends and good teachers.

"I made lots of friends and I'll miss them," she said.

By the end of their term at CBU, the "social butterflies" knew everyone in the school, joked Loretta.

For reasons of simple distance, educational equivalencies or concern over city living, Northern youth tend to forego southern universities for local colleges, said Loretta, who hopes some youngsters, including her daughter, may be inspired by her story to attempt a degree.

"It's hard work definitely, but you have to try it. University is good for social well-being and gives you the ability to meet people from around the world," she said.

The family now has an international array of friends but was also pleased to have met fellow Delta residents while on the east coast.

"You'll never forget where you came from and you'll never forget the North but you have to complete your education. It's that important," said Loretta.