College graduation is a very big moment for the individuals who have achieved success, but in the big picture, it is also a milestone for society. In that process some of our best, brightest and most motivated minds have taken a big step toward important, sometimes leadership roles.
Many great challenges are faced across Canada today – and particularly in the North – not the least of which is the need to engage and inspire young people to pursue higher education. One of the best means to succeed in that is to highlight the achievements of college graduates and the wonderful success stories involved, in such a way that youth will take notice and make favorable life decisions as a result.
The Slave River Journal takes its role in this seriously. Last week we did our best to shine the spotlight on the 2011 grad class of Aurora College, Thebacha Campus – and in particular the motivational individual stories within that. What we were able to feature was very likely only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This week we have tried to do the same with Keyano College convocation featuring success stories in Fort Chipewyan.
Three weeks ago there was a much smaller grad featured by the SRJ – the camp cook class from Thebacha Campus celebrated their convocation. A luncheon, created and served by the proud but nervous students and instructor, was the focal point of the ceremony. The signs were all about that the class had come together as a group of friends, had worked hard and learned a lot. The students were from different communities in the Deh Cho and several of the students had brought their young families a considerable distance to celebrate the achievement. College staff and administration were on hand, little kids ran about and made mischief – it was a fun, casual, family affair. All of the graduates were Aboriginal.
Before the meal began, Chief Roy Fabian from the Katlodeeche First Nation Reserve (Hay River), whose daughter was a member of the graduating class, was asked to say the blessing. In his invocation he thanked the Creator for the opportunity given to those young people to achieve the means to support their families. He also gave thanks to the Creator for the college in Fort Smith and for the tremendous services it has to offer to enable people and better their lives.
It was a poignant interlude in a warm and friendly setting, one of those ‘moments’ when life seems to come together.
Notably, it was also sincere, unprompted recognition by an Aboriginal leader for the level of quality of our northern education system and the profound effort hard working individuals have put into it over the decades to make it what it is today. All that in a setting when success stories are too often left wanting – in particular for Aboriginal Canadians. That our system has evolved and improved and become more successful is a bright light in the face of so many negatives that seem overwhelming in our modern world.
The celebration of college convocations at this time of year is not just about several groups of graduates having done well. It is also a benchmark in our society as it forges ahead and strives to improve. And it is also about the enhanced quality of life achieved by those who wrestle it to the ground and do well by it. In fact the list of superlatives continues and is long. It is about empowerment. It is about the evolution and strengthening of the role of Aboriginal culture in Northern (and Canadian) society. It is about getting jobs, enhanced employment and a stronger more vibrant economy. And it is about setting the stage for the youth of today to become the college students of tomorrow, when it is their turn to take up the torch.
It can be cliché to talk about youth being the leaders of tomorrow, but in this case, we are talking practicalities. Those with an education have a much greater chance to succeed in life, and they will have considerable impact, for good, on others as that positive future unfolds.
The next step is to get that message out to young people, in a compelling way.