“A special thanks to Ms. White who said on our first day ‘this won’t be easy, but I am here to make sure you succeed. You will get annoyed with me, but you will thank me when you are standing on that stage smiling and graduating’ and here we are, smiling and graduating,” said valedictorian and Bertha Greta Award recipient, Dredan Naistus during his speech.
Kayla Lachapelle, Jada John-Olney, Gilbert Joe, F. Sunny Mussell, Dredan Naistus, E. Felix Harry Jr. and Ryan Williams (from left to right) heard the thunderous applause of their siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and staff as they crossed the stage. Communities from across the Fraser Valley came together that day to honour the students’ journeys and reflect on their dedication.
It was a special journey in a unique place of education that encouraged the young minds of the graduating class to expand their horizons and build their own path.
“A great education in a place that felt like a second home,” said Dredan. “Graduates, be thankful for the great opportunity we had at Seabird Island Community School because not a whole lot of schools offer what this school has to offer. We are also very fortunate to have a Halq’eméylem course. People fought hard to get the language into our classrooms and for that hard work we are very appreciative.”
In closing, he encouraged his fellow graduates to be thankful to their families for their support and love.
“Look at all the family members here today who came out to witness us and the hard work we have endured throughout our school years. Thank you mom for showing me that anything is possible with dedication and hard work,” said Dredan as he directed his gaze to his mother Danielle Gabriel, “thank you for being the male and female figures in my life, raising me to be the young man I am today.”
When Sts’ailes Chief Ron John stepped forward to speak on behalf of his community, he saw the future leaders of communities across the Fraser Valley.
“One day, you children will be our leaders – one day. As our Elders say, we create leaders in our community, we don’t create followers. That’s what we’re doing here. We fill up both minds and create good leaders. We congratulate you, our children and we thank the teachers for investing time into our children and their literacy. So important to our children, literacy. You fill up their minds with the tools they need for the rest of their lives. And to our cultural teachers, my hands go up to you for filling up their other mind,” Chief John said as he motioned to his heart. “Our Elders say that this is our other mind. They learn the language; they learn the culture there.”
As the graduates prepare to begin a new journey, Principal Barbara White had a few words of advice.
“The transition from high school to higher learning is one of many changes you will encounter. Be prepared to change with a willing heart and believe in yourself and in your journey. Reach up to the Creator for help when you need it and reach out to others for support. At Lalme’ Iwesawtexw we have loved you, we have encouraged you, we have cried with you, we have been patient with you, we have believed in you and we have never given up on you. Take these examples with you as you go and keep going.”
Keep going and keep learning, our future leaders and graduating class of 2017. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish.