Birch Narrows celebrates a new beginning

Graduates (left to right) Lacey Sylvestre, Clayton Sylvester, Robin Piche and Tharren Moberly examine one of the gifts presented to them by FSIN Vice-Chiefs E. Dutch Lerat and Lyle Whitefish

By Rhonda Cooper

Thursday, June 16 marked not only a milestone in the lives of seven young people from the Birch Narrows Dene Community School, but also their community of Birch Narrows. The school and community celebrated its first ever Grade 12 graduation ceremony.

“Our new school opened last fall. It was the first year for Grade 12,” stated Birch Narrows Dene Nation Chief Robert Sylvester. “We had up to Grade 11 in our former school, that was located in the hamlet (of Turnor Lake). We took over the provincial school 10 years ago and we have been phasing in the high school grades. Before, the Grade 12 students were bused to LaLoche. We now have a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school, so no one has to leave.”

Students were able to receive their Grade 11 at home for the past four years, but physically there was no room for Grade 12 students in the old school. The new school accommodates all, thus eliminating the need to travel.

Graduates, elders, guests, family and friends were joined by an extensive list of special guests. The seven graduates — Ryan Herman, Delaina McCallum, Tamara Moberly, Tami Moberly, Tharren Moberly, Robin Piche, Clayton Sylvester and Lacey Sylvester — were drummed into the ceremony by the Buffalo River Dene Drummers. Each was escorted up the centre aisle by people of his/her choosing before taking their seat on stage.

Each of the five Chiefs in attendance took a turn at the podium extending personal congratulations to the graduates and all those who played a role in their achievement. Each shared a central message regarding the critical role education plays in the success of individuals, communities and First Nations as a whole. Each graduate was encouraged to continue as role models for others within the community while pursuing their individual dreams. Gifts were then presented to the graduates by the chiefs. Director of Education Judy Okanee extended congratulations and closed with the passage of, “Instead of following a path, lead the way and make your own trail.”

Academic achievement awards were presented. The highest overall average mark and the Governor General’s Award was presented to Tami Moberly. Delaina McCallum and Tharren Moberly tied for the honourable mention for overall high school marks. Individual awards were awarded to
to the students with the highest average in Grade 12 subjects. Physics 30 went to Tharren Moberly; Native Studies 30 to Robin Piche; Food Studies 30 and History 30 to Tami Moberly and Math A30, English Arts 30 and Biology 30 to Lacey Sylvester.

Tami Moberly gave a brief valedictorian’s address where she expressed gratitude to the parents and teachers for their roles in the graduates’ success.
“This is the beginning of the rest of our lives,” she said.

The formal ceremony concluded with each graduate entering the audience and presenting roses to those who they felt played a significant role in their life.

“It has been a lot of fun,” said Lacey Sylvester. “I am going to miss this school.”

Having spent her Grade 11 year in Buffalo Narrows, Lacey was thrilled to complete her high school education at home in Birch Narrows.

“It is very special. First graduates of the new school at Turnor Lake. The girls in our class are very close. We grew up together and are always together.”

Lacey, mom to 11-month-old Kylan, is planning to further her education.

“I am on the waiting list for the Bachelor of Nursing program in Ile-a-la Crosse but I am hoping to get into the Health Career Access Program in Buffalo Narrows. With the baby, I need to be somewhere close to my mom, grandparents and family.”

The program will give her all the necessary prerequisites for the health field. Lacey is short one credit, as the class was not offered this year. Her goal is to become a registered nurse and return home to work.

“You could work as an RN here at the nursing station. Maybe after a couple of years, I might go for my nurse practitioner. I really want to do this to encourage other young mothers, because if I can do it, so can they.”

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