Kenjgewin Teg Class of 2022 graduates highest cohort ever

Graduates of the Mshiigaade Miikan (The Path is Clearing) program are all smiles as they receive their diplomas at the Kenjgewin Teg graduation ceremonies June 28.

M’CHIGEENG—In spite of the pandemic, the continuing growth of Kenjgewin Teg is made clear as can be seen by the high number of students who graduated from the various programs this past year.

“I have to share that 2022 marks the year that we are celebrating the most number of graduates ever,” said Beverley Roy, acting president of Kenjgewin Teg at the graduation ceremonies held June 28 on the campus grounds. “Over 70 students during a pandemic-shta taa haal! This makes me think that what we faced together over the past couple of years were in fact, opportunities, new horizons, and maybe not so much as we thought as challenges,” continued Ms. Roy.

“Today is a day when we also recognize those graduates who, in addition to their programs of study, also spent extra time learning more about our Anishinaabe language, customs and culture. To honour this commitment to learning more about themselves, and getting deeper and closer to asking themselves, ‘Who Am I’ or ‘What is my Purpose?’ we will take a few moments today to additionally recognize those who are graduating with Anishinaabe Aadziwin distinction,” said Ms. Roy.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some other incredible developments that have happened for Kenjgewin Teg and our future learners,” said Ms. Roy. “2021-2022 will be the year that goes down in history for a couple of reasons: our future includes developing and creating Kenjgewin Teg’s own certificates, degrees and diplomas and this includes maintaining all of our valued partnerships. The second incredible thing that happened this year is that we were gifted a knowledge bundle, the Indigenous Studies degree programs from the University of Sudbury. Together, all of this means that Kenjgewin Teg is in a very good place to begin making even a greater impact in the years and decades ahead of us.”

And the impact that the programs provided by Kenjgewin Teg were certainly important in the minds and hearts of the graduates. Representatives of the students in each program spoke about the importance of their program and having this opportunity.

Lakota Preston, who graduated from the Mshiigaade Miikan, Indigenous Teachers’ Assistant diploma (partner Nipissing University) and Kenjgewin Teg Secondary School diploma, told those assembled, 

“My journey starts and begins today. I am one of the first members of my family to graduate from high school,” said Mr. Preston. He explained that he grew up in a broken home, “and getting an education was one of the last things on my mind. When I was small, I put school on the back burner.”

However, going through the Kenjgewin Teg “environment this time didn’t allow me to quit; it encouraged me to continue,” said Mr. Preston. “Kenjgewin Teg helped me reach my goals. It’s magical. I will pursue being a teacher, and this is a dream I didn’t know I even had,” he said, adding, “I am so proud of everyone here today, my fellow graduates.”

Austin Pangowish, a graduate of the Shki-Mjiinakiing-Pathway to (skilled) Trades program, said, “the past year has been a good year. Before the past year, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.”

“In the trades program, I learned a lot. Taking this program and graduating from it brought the spark back. One of the awesome things Kenjgewin Teg gave me was to never stop working, never to give up on yourself. There are people rooting for you, never stop working on yourself and look to the future and be proud.”

Graduating student Candace Lloyd, in the Aboriginal Teachers’ Education Program (ATEP) partner, Queens University, said, “it took two years to get here,” as she said she is embarking on a second career as a teacher, having spent 27 years in the registered nursing profession.

Kenjgewin Teg Traditional Knowledge Holder Gloria Oshkabewisens-McGregor said, “Miigwetch to everyone for coming today to celebrate this day of achievement for our graduates.”

“It is with great pride that we celebrate you, the graduating class of 2022,” said Ms. Roy. “As my very good friend and one of my favourite cyber elders would say, this is a chi-awesome day to be together.”

“Indeed, New Horizons is an inspiring and appropriate theme for this year’s celebrations,” said Ms. Roy. “Many new, exciting opportunities are indeed on the horizon ahead for all our graduates.”

“A big shoutout  and chi miigwetch also goes out to all of our valued partners who share this amazing day with us,” said Ms. Roy. “We would not be here without our college and university partners as it is our community-based partnerships that create access and opportunities for our learners and who are now graduates and alumni of Kenjgewin Teg, starting today.”

“I’d like to take a moment to recognize our various teams who also do incredible work in order to reach graduation day,” said Ms. Roy,  praising the PSE team of program coordinators, the registrar, the student services team, the fairly new Anishinaabe Aadziwin team and the graduation committee.

“And now a few words, especially to our graduating class of 2022. We are truly humbled that you chose Kenjgewin Teg to be one small part of your lifelong learning journey,” said Ms. Roy. “Today is all about you; it is a day to take the time, to take in this special moment, and to have all spotlights shining on you because it is you who did the hard work. You perhaps even anguished over your too many assignments, sitting in virtual classrooms too long and all the while staying true to your goals. Today, we as your Kenjgewin Teg family celebrate your new horizons ahead together with you and your families and friends who are joining us here today either in-person or virtually, or maybe both.”

Those students who graduated with Anishinaaabe Aadiwin distinction included Alexandra Bednash, Alison Elsner, Crystal Squier, Crystal Young, Elaine Trudeau, Jennifer Guignard, Jody Boissoneau, Karen Dowan, Maxine Peltier, Michelle Clarke, Mikhayla Patterson, Melissa Jacko, Austin Pangowish, Cecil Lamaar and Stephanie Craddock.

“At this time, I’d like to call upon Gloria and Josh to come up to the stage,” said Ms. Roy. Over the years, many students including many of you in this year’s graduating class of 2022, have had the opportunity  to meet, learn and get to know Elder Josh Eshkawkogan. Josh has been a part of and has led us to many firsts at Kenjgewin Teg. He was part of the first program we fondly remember as AIMS, (which is the Anishinabek Identify Mind and Spirit) program, he has prepared, through ceremony, our land for all our beautiful place and aspects for learning. He led us in building our first sweat lodge here on campus and, more recently, he led us in constructing and sewing hundreds of birch bark panels for our wonderful sweat.”

“So it is only fitting that in ceremony this morning, in the teaching lodge he led us in building, that we honour and officially induct Josh as one of our Kenjgewin Teg Elders. Josh is, and has always been, a part of our Kenjgewin Teg but this morning, we made it official that he is now stuck with all of us at Kenjgewin Teg. But all kidding aside, just know that we love you Josh and all that you do for our students.”

Drum group Thunder Earth then performed a travelling song.

Ontario Secondary School diplomas were presented to the students in the various programs. Kenjgewin Teg Secondary School: Margo Turple, Cecil Lamarr, Donna Jacobs, Tyler Tokarz, Ezra Jones and Lakota Preston.

The Mshiigaade Miikan (The Path is Clearing) program: Adam Williamson, Autumn Debassige, Christina Mishibinijima, Dawn Howell, Deidre Debassige, Diane Mandamin, Jayda Kagige, Juanita Migwans, Katrina Manitowabi, Lakota Preston, Lelsie Neshkiwe, Lindsay Owl, Nina Trudeau, Paige Cooper, Richard Kagige and Tiffany McGregor.

Post Secondary Programs-Master of Social Work (partner Wilfrid Laurier University) Alexandra Bednash, Michelle Clark, Andrew Germaine Copegog, Karen Dowan, Allison Elsner, Megan Espaniel, Katie Gilchrist, Maxine Ginnish, Jennifer Guignard, Melissa Kasunich, Judith Martin, Mikhayla Patterson, Maxine Peltier, Madison Schell, Rosemary Spring, Crystal Squier, Lisa Still, Elain Trudeau and Crystal Young.

Personal Support Worker (PSW) (partner Canadore College): Megan Wanda Marie Corbiere, Paige Erin Nahwegahbow, Elisa Leigh Stirling and Amanda Third.

Shki-Mjiinakiing-Pathway to Trades-Melissa Jacko, Austin Pangowish, Christopher Spong.

Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) Certificate: Marcus Collinson, Cecil Lamarr, Percy Roy, Ryan Tricco, Adam Williamson.

Aboriginal Teachers Education Program (ATEP) (partner Queen’s University): Tara Beaudry, Cassandra Bisson, Stephanie Craddock, Candace Lloyd, and Casey Digby.

Indigenous Teachers’ Assistant Diploma (partner Nipissing University): Sasha Hare, Katelyn Johnson, Logan Payette and Lakota Preston.

Professional Development Computer Applications program (partner Canadore College): Joyce Aiabens, Joanna Bird, Sharlene Cole, Bill Cranston, Kelly Esquimaux, Elizabeth Gamrat, Sarah Liipere, Rebecca Loucks, Sheila Madahbee, Krista Manitowabi, Lanell Mejaki and Lila Sloss.