Soon-to-be Fort Smith scholars celebrated their first graduation last week.
Students at the Aboriginal Head Start program were honoured during the pre-school program’s graduation on June 9, surrounded by family and friends at the Queen Elizabeth campground.
The extremely successful half-day program for children of Aboriginal families, in its 13th year, prepares students for kindergarten by teaching them numbers, reading, writing, Cree language and simple crafts.
For parent Lacey Catholique, her son Evan’s graduation was a successful finish to a year in which he learned so much.
“I’m so proud of him,” she said.
Catholique had wide ranging praise for the program, for Salt River First Nation for making resources available and to teacher Debora Heron who put so much effort into the students throughout the year.
“They really go the extra mile here,” she said. “It is nice for the children to have this experience. It somewhat sets a standard for them, and they really do take it seriously.”
Heron said that watching the students graduate after the growth they have each made over the year was an emotional moment for her as a teacher.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” she said.
She said the fact that such a big deal is made out of the students will hopefully encourage them to stay focused on education as they move into elementary and then high school.
Heron added that the fact so many people from the community, including many parents and family members, came out to watch the graduation meant a lot to the students and the program staff.
“It is not only for the students,” Heron said. “The graduation is also for the parents to celebrate their accomplishments. Hopefully this will help keep them motivated to continue taking part in their child’s education.”