Wikwemikong High School graduates celebrated at ceremony

The Wikwemikong High School graduating Class of 2016.

WIKEMIKONG—Donning scholar’s robes, the graduating students of Wikwemikong High School processed into the proud gazes of parents, guardians, teachers, guests and fellow graduates to the beat of an entrance song during graduation ceremonies held on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 29.

The proceedings were then opened with a prayer by elder Frank Fisher before speeches of welcome and congratulations by Wikwemikong Principal Michael (Mick) Staruck, Wikwemikong Board of Education Executive Director Dominic Beaudry and Wikwemikong Education and Culture portfolio holder Cecilia Pitawanakwat on behalf of chief and council.

Mr. Staruck delivered his address in the language as a symbol of the school’s commitment to enhancing and preserving Anishinabemowin and First Nation culture.

The keynote address was provided by Trisha Trudeau.

Eugenia Eshkawkogan gives the valedictory address to the Wikwemikong High School Class of 2016.
Eugenia Eshkawkogan gives the valedictory address to the Wikwemikong High School Class of 2016.

Eugenia Eshkawkogan was the valedictorian and her speech is as follows:

“I’m going to begin off saying that I had a difficult time writing this speech. I sat nervously at my kitchen table for a really long time wondering what exactly to write. What I was going to say, how I was going to say my speech, and whether or not my speech was going to be long enough. Not to mention, me thinking about this exact time of being on the stage and speaking in front of all of you today. It is definitely not easy trying to speak up here, but I guess it all takes time. I say this because I’m still known to be a little shy, and being a bit quiet.

“However, I am honoured to be up here and to be speaking on behalf of my graduating class.

“There’s a quote that I wanted to share that I heard in my english class this semester. “The beginning is always today,” which is quoted by Mary Shelley. Her quote is said to be true. We can wake up every day and start off fresh. We all go through struggles, and mistakes, but it just means learning from them, starting over, and starting new beginnings. Hence here we are today, because we’re all soon to be off to start the next chapter in our lives. Either off to post-secondary or in the work field.

“Now there are some of us here that have been at high school longer than others. For the older ones, you should most definitely be proud because you did it! You guys kept going and you didn’t give up. Regardless of what was thrown at you, but also maybe because you just wanted to be out of this school already, I mean after all I’m glad to be finished too. I’m proud of everyone sitting here and I can also say that I’m glad to have became such good friends with a few of you. We most definitely created a lot of memories over the past four years. The grad trip was most definitely a fun one with our two funny chaperones, Ms. Erika Manitowabi, and Ms Valerie O’Leary. The things you two did for us grads, like making us laugh on the trip. Oh yes, it was a grand ole time with you two. What happens in Toronto, stays in Toronto!

“I just want to mention and to say chi-miigwech to a few teachers. For my auntie, I mean Ms. Sandra Peltier, for encouraging us to keep learning the language and telling us to use it everyday! Also want to say, congratulations for helping the students in creating a dictionary in our language. For Mr. Mara, and Mr. B, for helping me and a few other graduates with our science classes, as we head towards our pathways. Ms. Balen, thanks for encouraging me and helping me in speaking out more, and definitely writing more, as I know some of us are just looking forward to writing essays in post-secondary. Of course, I definitely can’t forget all our other teachers sitting here today. The things you guys taught us in order for us to finish high school. And a special shout out to Mrs. Jillian Peltier for giving me the guidance to help me finish my high school, and prepare me for post-secondary. Along with always asking me to volunteer to score keep for volleyball for the past 4 years. I sure am going to miss watching those boys in tight shorts. Just kidding! To the awesome secretaries, Dorothy and Pat, who sit in the office all day and monitor students’ attendance. Well I’m glad you two never called my house. My good charms must have really payed off I guess. Lastly, I’m going to miss the morning greetings from Mr. Staruck. Those morning greetings always brightened up our day.

“Finally, to our parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles, who always support and encourage us to finish high school, and to continue to fulfill our dreams. Of course, I want to say chi-miigwech to both my parents, Natalie and Eugene, for always telling me and pushing me to strive for good grades. Making sure that I was always on top of things in my classes, doing my homework, and making sure that I’m not late for school. Also for telling me that everything I do, is based on making the right choices. And hey, I’m thankful for the choices that I made during my high school years. They sure did help me into reaching my dreams. Oh, I can’t forget my little brother. I’m proud of you for following my footsteps. Even though we disagree with each other all the time, I know you’re going to miss me when I’m off to post-secondary.

I’m looking forward to attending Laurentian University in the fall, in the nursing program. And eventually, my goal is to become a pediatrician, and to come back home to work in my community.

Just one last message to my fellow graduates, in order to persevere, we have to work hard to become successful. So let’s do this and spread our wings and fly! Miigwech.”

Chris Pheasant, right, conducts the official ceremony that marks the passing of the Eagle Staff from graduate Mathew Oshkabewisens to Geordan Lewis.
Chris Pheasant, right, conducts the official ceremony that marks the passing of the Eagle Staff from graduate Mathew Oshkabewisens to Geordan Lewis.

The duty of care of the Wikwemikong High School eagle staff was transferred from Mathew Oshkabewisens to Geordan Lewis during a ceremony at the graduation facilitated by Chris Pheasant.

Max Mishibinijima received the Wikwemikong High School Life Skills Most Improved Award, presented by Illa Proulx.

The Parent Council bursary for Outstanding Attendance was presented to Raoul Mandamin by Prinicipal Staruck.

The Wikwemikong High School bursary for Outstanding Contribution to the High School was presented by Principal Staruck to Adrian Trudeau for contributions to many sports, emceeing at events and powwows (including the huge New Years’ Eve powwow), providing a positive influence, all while maintaining strong academics.”

An Ontario Scholar’s Award was presented to Eugenia Eshkawkogan by Mr. Beaudry.

The Schulich Leader Scholarship nomination was presented to Eugenia Eshkawkogan by Jillian Peltier.

The Cambrian College Entrance Award was presented to Austin Pangowish by Clifton Wassengeso.

Austin Pangowish is congratulated by principal Mick Staruck upon graduation. Austin is heading to Cambrian College in the fall.
Austin Pangowish is congratulated by principal Mick Staruck upon graduation. Austin is heading to Cambrian College in the fall.

The Canadore College Entrance Award was presented by Paulette Aiabens to Adrian Trudeau.

Following the presentation of the graduates, an honour song was played prior to the recessional song.