Indigenous high school grads step into future

·3 min read

It is a special time when students graduate high school; it is the first step into adulthood with education and a potential for furthering education. These students are the future of society.

Forty-nine Indigenous students have graduated this year in the Lethbridge School Division. The numbers of Indigenous students graduating is increasing each year.

The graduation ceremony was held at Chinook High School on Tuesday evening. Co-ordinator of Indigenous Education for Lethbridge School Division, Joel Tailfeathers, talked about the achievement it is for students, parents and community members and the success it builds for Indigenous communities.

“It’s a lifetime of achievement for all of our parents and community members, as well as our graduates, as well as we need to start building cycles of success within our Indigenous communities. So today is a very huge day,” said Tailfeathers.

The graduating students studied at Victoria Park, LCI, Winston Churchill and Chinook High School.

Melanie Morrow, the elementary Indigenous Education instructor of Lethbridge School District 51, talked about the honorary students receiving diplomas who have recently died.

“It’s very important to recognize that a couple of our students are getting honorary diplomas today because they’ve passed away recently and due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s really sad because these kids haven’t been able to be here physically but are here in spirit, and we’re honouring them. And I think it’s just another one of those really sad truths about what’s happening in our society and how everybody just needs to do their part and learn and not judge and really just support people because people are people,” Morrow shared.

During the Indigenous graduation ceremony, the audience applauded at Tailfeathers’ remarks regarding the importance of the Indigenous languages and how they should be included more within society.

Tailfeathers, at one point, made an example of languages on the back of cereal boxes and how Indigenous languages should be included.

Tailfeathers also talked about the importance of building a trusting relationship for Indigenous students within schools and the impact that will have in society.

“We need to do whatever we can do to build that trust in relationships and with school and the trust back into schools. So these kids cannot only graduate in Grade 12, but they can go on to post-secondary education, and then that way, get a good paying job and start their own little families. And then that cycle of success will start to begin.”

The ceremony had guest speaker Apollo Hess Mootooyaohkii, a former LCI student, address the graduating students about “following your dreams.” Hess said he hopes his speech will have and impact and expressed how he is trying to inspire the next generation.

“I think what I’m trying to do, at least, is to inspire the next generation. Go after what they want to do. Don’t be afraid to take risks and cherish your friends,” Hess said.

Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald