WIIKWEMKOONG – The excitement was evident at Wikwemikong High School (WHS) as family, friends and community members gathered to wish the WHS graduating class of 2019 well on their future adventures.
“Today, you have a right to feel proud of your accomplishments as you are our future leaders,” said WHS principal Maureen Peltier in her opening address. The entrance and honour songs were performed by Wossnohdeh Jr.’s Drum Group and Patricia Manitowabi had provided the opening prayer.
“It is a time of change for you, one in which you’ll be challenged to do something new, but at the same time feel sheer delight in that same fact,” she said.
She acknowledged the great successes of this year’s grad class including members of the robotics team, athletes, canoe-builders, travellers and academic stars.
Wikwemikong Board of Education director Fay Zoccole spoke next and offered the graduates a reflection on the road that leads away from Wiikwemkoong.
“This road will always be there when you need to come home to rest and take a break from the busy world. The other thing this road will do is that it has access to other places, activities and things,” she said.
Ms. Zoccole encouraged the students to keep embracing their culture and speaking Anishinaabemowin, and think of their families back home if they needed support.
Cameryn Beaudry, a WHS grad himself in 2007, delivered the keynote address which consisted of stories from his own life, stories that stressed the value of time and the benefits of going beyond one’s comfort zone. He shared his experiences of planning to become a police officer before realizing his passion for education. Mr. Beaudry will be starting in the fall as WHS’s physical education teacher.
“Never settle for something you are not excited to wake up for in the morning. Keep learning, keep growing, find your passion and you will live a life of fulfillment while inspiring those around you to do the same,” said Mr. Beaudry.
Next came the distribution of bursaries and awards. The WHS Bursary for Outstanding Attendance was awarded to Bernadette Pangowish, who also received the WHS Bursary for Outstanding Contribution.
Symone Peltier received the Ontario Scholar Award as well as the Governor General’s Academic Medal for having the highest graduating average.
Tyrell Wemigwans received the Cambrian College Entrance Award and Harmony Rivers received the Canadore College Entrance Scholarship.
Finally, the Nicholas Wemigwans Memorial Award was presented to Cole Baibomcowai.
Valedictorian Ferris Eshkawkogan was called to the stage next, before all the graduates received their diplomas. His speech is printed below.
“Aanii, good afternoon parents, guardians, teachers, guests, and fellow graduates.
“It took me a while to think about what I was going to write and say to everyone here today in celebrating this milestone with us, knowing that this is our final year at Wikwemikong High school. But here is what I have to say about the years we have accomplished here.
“Throughout the four years I have been in high school, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Warriors athletics team. Being a part of the athletics team got me more motivated to keep up my academics, so I did not get removed from any of the teams. Every year starts with volleyball, to basketball, badminton, tennis, to track and field and softball. The teams that I have been a part of this year include volleyball, basketball, badminton and track and field. Back in Grade 9, I was glad to be a part of the basketball team with a great group of guys. I also was a part of the badminton team—shout out to Cliff for motivating us to keep practicing and to better ourselves. Track and field was the highlight of my Grade 9 year because of the three new records I made within our school. I was able to go to NOSSA in North Bay with the great coach Marcel and my dad to represent our school. At the end of my Grade 9 year, I received the male student athlete of the year. Grade 10 was a similar year, but I got to partake in the volleyball with the deadliest spikers and setters I know. We hosted NOSSA B and placed second within our small but mighty school. And within my final year, all the perseverance I had from the beginning since I started high school, I was able to be captain of the volleyball team. I would like to give a shoutout to my teammates and coaches who encouraged us to do our best!
“Even though some of the teachers are coaches, they were like our family members who taught us what we needed to know throughout our high school career. Sandra started it off, as being our Nokomis of the school, and to some a moojiinhs. She always encouraged us to attend class regularly because she wanted us out of here! Mr. Mara, you’re like the cool uncle the school needed; always the helping hand. You cracked some Einstein jokes and laughed, but some of us didn’t even get the joke. Even with all the robotics you did, you still managed to help us out in our studies. Thibault, you’re like our adopted cousin who could take a joke and try very hard to dish out a comeback. But most times it backfired. You always know the inside joke between Noah, Carlos and I. Just to let you know, you will see our business coming soon to a town near you. We will not oink around. Samantha Cooper, the godmother of our school, even though I only had you for one class, in your first semester here, I will always remember the incident between Mr. G and Noah about mumbling. That felt like the breaking point of having a good relationship with us students. For the track and field team, you will always be the biggest supporter in showing up to all our events. Balen, our mother-like figure, thanks for being our English teacher and always keeping at us for completing our work and to do our very best. Which brings me to my next point in regards to writing; not to follow my sister’s shoes, but Balen always brought up my sister in most of our conversations in classes.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends for always being there and encouraging me to continue on with my studies, and working towards post-secondary. Miigwech to my grandmas, my aunties and uncles, and yes, especially you auntie Michelle! Noah Manitowabi, miigwech for being the greatest best friend and an even better study buddy! Elijah Bell, thanks for being the best teammate you could be, and the friend to always laugh and joke around with. Shoutout to the 2018-2019 basketball squad for your great team sportsmanship on and off the court! But most importantly, a huge shoutout to my mom and dad for always pushing me to do my very best in my studies and sports. And no, mom, you are not moving in with me. Like I mentioned, it is about keeping a balance between academics and extracurriculars.
“With all the sports that I have been talking about, my post-secondary journey will be starting at Laurentian University in the upcoming school year, where I was accepted in the sports administration program! Even though I said I wasn’t going to follow my sister’s footsteps, here I go following right behind her.
“I just want to mention to my fellow graduating class of 2019. Let’s make our dreams come true, because you got this, I got this, we got this!