For 29 Aurora College graduates from Thebacha campus in Fort Smith, tears mixed with laughter as they took to the stage in front of guest speakers, college staff and a crowd of loved ones at the college’s annual spring convocation last week.
Sporting blue robes, this year’s graduates from the schools of Business and Leadership, Arts and Sciences and Education received their degrees and diplomas Friday at the Fort Smith recreation centre where hundreds gathered to congratulate them.
“This is truly a milestone in your life,” guest speaker George Tuccaro, commissioner of the Northwest Territories, said in addressing the graduating class. “You have my deep respect and honour for what you’ve accomplished today.”
Bachelor of Education graduate Aleda Lafferty, a mother of three from Fort Resolution, was chosen as the 2014 valedictorian and received the Board of Governors’ award for student leadership.
Graduation is an emotional, exhilarating and exciting time for all of them, she said in her valedictorian address.
“We are all parting ways, which does not mean an end to the lasting friendships we have made, but rather an end to the passing of each other in the halls, visiting in the lobby or in the parking lot, or seeing each other in the computer lab when we are all stressing over an assignment, which is probably due the next day,” she said, inciting a ripple of laughter from the crowd.
“It may be the end of our lives as students, but it is the start of our journey, which we will embark upon. We have completed one chapter and are beginning another,” Lafferty said. “I wish you all the best.”
Aurora College president Jane Arychuk gave a nod to the family and friends of the graduates and acknowledged the importance of relationships.
“Your family and friends have been there when you needed emotional, physical, academic and I’m sure even financial support during your educational career,” Arychuk said.
For many graduates, their education at Aurora has meant leaving the support of friends and family in their hometowns, but they have come to forge new relationships with classmates and other students at the college, she said.
“Some of those have become close relationships and provided support you needed right when you needed it to be successful,” Arychuk said.
Minister of Education Jackson Lafferty, along with Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger, were on hand to congratulate the graduates and called their success an important part of the territory’s future.
“During this time of growth across our territory…it is important to develop educated and experienced Northerners in place to meet our growing demands,” Lafferty said. “No matter your field, your hard work and dedication proves you have what it takes to contribute to the prosperous, strong future for the North.”
“You folks are the best resource we have in the Northwest Territories and that’s qualified, educated learners,” Miltenberger said.
Other Board of Governor awards went to Susie Wegernoski for innovation and college improvement, Cherie Stewart for instructional excellence and Laura Aubrey for service quality.
Lafferty received the Town of Fort Smith student award as well as the Student Association student of the year award, along with Pierre-Luc Berube.
Convocations for Aurora College’s Yellowknife North Slave campus will be held May 3, and at Inuvik’s Aurora campus May 9.