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'Always lead with kindness': Kamsack Comprehensive valedictorian

Dutch Wapash said he was elated, overjoyed, and truly, truly, truly grateful to be KCI's first ever Indigenous valedictorian.
KCI grad valedictorian 2022
Dutch Wapash was the valedictorian for the 2022 KCI graduating class.

KAMSACK — “Being granted the title 'valedictorian' was both amazing and terrifying, because I knew I had to craft a speech that perfectly sends us all into the sunset,” Dutch Wapash said at the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute grad ceremony.

“It feels so cathartic being up here, but it also feels extremely nerve-racking, and if you were to feel my pulse right now, you would honestly feel my heart beating a million miles a minute.”

Wapash said on June 24 that he was elated, overjoyed, and truly, truly, truly grateful to be KCI's first ever Indigenous valedictorian, “and I am over the moon to welcome and thank everyone for coming to honour and celebrate the KCI grad class of 2022.

“It is so easy to just brush off the pandemic and everything that came with it, because of the ease of restrictions. However, over the past two years, it has messed up a lot of our time here.

“For us all, COVID-19 shaped and moulded high school, including everything we went through, how we all had to personally deal with it, and how we all had to overcome it. So it is important that we acknowledge it.

“Emotions, like stress, uncertainty, and confusion, are all perfect ways to describe how our Grades 10, 11, and 12 school years were directly impacted by the coronavirus. It could honestly have been the worst thing that could have ever happened. It was, and still is, easy to look at all the negative effects, but over time, as we all faced lockdowns, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, and an overall wonky change of pace, I tried to turn these thoughts into positives and see it as nothing but a slight hurdle, a bump in the road, per se, that guided and allowed us to triumphantly stand where we all are today.”

Saying that his KCI journey began in September 2019 when he entered Grade 10, Wapash said that all his fellow graduates have had a significant impact on his life, whether they know it or not. He then mentioned each graduate by name and explained what each had meant to him.

“When that clock strikes midnight tonight, we can officially say that our high school journey has come and gone,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, there is truly no other group of amazing people that I would have wanted to do this with.

“These past few years have been splendid, and if you were to ask me if I would do this all again, with all of you, I would in a heartbeat.”

Wapash proved an anecdote from the film Kung Fu Panda in which Master Oogway says: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

“Grads, don't dwell on what was, don't worry about what will be, you can't change it, live for today. Today is a gift so let's treat it as such. The only thing that matters is what we choose to be now. I hope you reach your goals with passion because through passion, we gain strength; through strength, we gain power; through power, we gain victory, and through victory, time frees us. Time frees us to be the very best version of ourselves.

“Life is a forward march, and once you become in tune with the song life hums, I am certain you will continue to move forward and I have no doubt that you will strive to new heights, getting to places you only could have imagined of.”

Quoting William Wordsworth, Wapash said: “On that best portion of a good man's life [are] his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

“These words I hold very true to my being because throughout my 17 years of life, I have learned to always lead with kindness, even if you don't know where you're going, lovely things will follow.

“I just want to let all the grads know that school has been the main and probably only thing we have known for 12-ish years,” he said. “It's OK to slow down and take your time. It's OK to take your time to peel back all the smoke and mirrors and discover what's really important to you. It's OK to take your time to smell the beautiful roses, watch the glorious sun rise and set each day, and to just go at your own pace.

“Don't ever compare you and your progress to others and don't feel the need to keep up with everyone. You don't have to have this crazy thing called 'life' all figured out by tomorrow.

“So, on the other side of that door, where your dreams stay, I hope you reach and go through them with flying colours, holding nothing back, breaking those doors down and achieving those dreams, whatever they may be.

“Giving this valedictorian speech has been a joy, a pip and a hoot. So above all else, if there is anything, anything at all, that you take from this speech, take these inspiring words from the famous comedian/actor Jim Carrey: ‘You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.’

“On this day, June 24, to the KCI graduates of 2022, may passion and love drive your focus in life and may peace be with you.”