KAMSACK — A cap-and-gown ceremony was held June 24 in honour of the 17 graduates of the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute.
With Grade 11 students, Leah Schwartz and Will Zarchkoff as the MCs, the program began with an acknowledging that “we are on the traditional lands, referred to as Treaty 4 Territory and that KCI is located within this territory. It is the original lands of the Cree, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakota, Lakota and the homeland of the Métis Nation.
“We respect and honour the Treaties that were made on all territories, we also acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and we are committed to moving forward in partnership with all treaty peoples in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration. We are all treaty people and have a great responsibility to right the wrongs of the past.”
Each member of the graduating class entered the hall from the rear to cheers from family and friends and took seats at the front.
After O Canada, Vincent Cadotte, a Cote First Nation elder, spoke briefly about the 74 bands in Treaty 4 and said that the “whole world is opening to First Nations.” He referred to Ribbon Skirt Day, mentioned residential schools and urged graduates to remember their home town.
“If you have anger in your heart, you will carry it with you,” he said. “Follow the Creator’s way; we’re put here for a reason.”
Cadotte concluded by offering a prayer for the graduates.
“You are the only one who gets to decide what you will be remembered for,” the MCs said, quoting Taylor Swift, which was the theme selected by the graduates for the event.
Mark Lucas, principal, and Laura Reilkoff, vice-principal, presented diplomas to each of the graduates as they entered the stage, one at a time, as Carter Reilkoff and Kaden Lucas, Grade 11 students, read “accolades” for each one.
- Kyler Allen plans to farm and build his own farm one day.
- Ilyana Carpenter-Bloudoff plans on going to the Culinary Institute of Canada in Prince Edward Island and obtaining a Red Seal in baking.
- Tristen Chernoff plans to become a heavy duty mechanic and then eventually take over the family farm.
- Rose Dix plans to move to Fort Qu’Appelle.
- Kate Erhardt plans to attend the University of Saskatchewan to receive a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and then go on to receive a doctorate in dentistry.
- Kalen Hotomani plans to go into roofing or the trades.
- Cole Keshane said he plans to attend Parkland College to study heavy duty mechanics.
- Ahailya Keshane-Quewezance hopes to make progress with her art in the future.
- Rowyn Kitchemonia said he plans to go into the trades than and then join the RCMO.
- Karen Luu plans to attend the University of Regina in the faculty of education to become a school teacher.
- Eric Moriarty expects to attend the U of R to obtain a degree in pharmacy.
- Lilyanna Quewezance said she plans to attend university and then become a “well-known artist or painter.”
- Tara Taylor expects to attend the U of R to become a pharmacist.
- Jordyn Thomas said she wants to attend the U of S in the combined kinesiology and education program to become a teacher.
- Dutch Wapash said he plans to “live a life of self-fulfillment” and enjoy it one step and one day at a time.
- Hailey Yaremko expects to attend Saskatchewan Polytechnic and become a dental hygienist.
- Rylee Zbeetnoff said she plans to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Parkland College through the U of R.Z
In his presentation, Mark Lucas, principal, asked for a round of applause for those planning the ceremony and said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic it has been a few years since such a gathering has been possible.
Laura Reilkoff, vice-principal, read the letter from Saskatchewan Lieutenant-Governor Russell Mirasty, who recognized the graduates and their families, encouraged graduates to consider how to contribute to their community and reminded them that they are graduating in the year that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, “an extraordinary role model,” is celebrating her 70th year on the throne.
Scholarships were presented to several students.
Jordyn Thomas was presented with the Zarchikoff Leadership Award of $200; the Placatka Math Award of $150; Good Spirit Teachers’ Association Award of $750; one of three Kamsack Dental General Proficiency Awards of $200; the Andrychuk Funeral Home Biology Award of $300; the Town of Kamsack Award of $500; the Masonic Award of $200, and the Affinity “Build a Better World” Award of $1,000.
Kate Erhardt received the Kamsack Dental General Proficiency Award of $200; The RM of Cote Award of $250; the Kamsack Legion Award of $500, and a leadership award of $2,500.
Rylee Zbeetnoff received the dental award of $200 and the Leland Campbell Kondratoff Persick Award of $200; Tara Taylor, the first Garden of Saskatchewan Youth Citizenship Award of $600, and Tristan Chernoff, the Tyson Werrell Memorial Award of $200, which was presented by his mother Kim Chernoff.
It was also announced that Kate Erhardt and Jordyn Thomas were to win the U of S $3,000 entrance scholarships; Rylee Zbeetnoff, the $3,500 U or R scholarship, and Iliana Carpenter-Bloudoff, a PEI college award.
Tribute to the school division
It is often thought that the school is not just a building, but a foundation of society, a place where youth are shaped to become leaders of the future, Eric Moriarty said in his tribute to the Good Spirit School Division.
“At a glance, one might think that the task of nurturing these up-and-coming members of society lies in the hands of the teachers. Even though this is true, to a certain extent, we sometimes fail to acknowledge the aspect of the education system that works behind the scenes.
“The school division is a fundamental part of our educational system,” Moriarty said. “They are the workforce that designates staff, allocates funds for prime use, and introduces new learning strategies to improve our quality of knowledge. Outside of the school itself, the school division plays a vital part in the planning of bus routes, field trips, and sporting events.
“Without the dedicated members within our school division we would be left with nothing but disorganization and chaos,” he said. “On behalf of the Grad class of 2022 I would like to thank you for your hard work and dedication.”
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Jaime Johnson of Norquay, the Div. 1 trustee on the division board, said. “You are a group of graduates who likely entered the pandemic as Grade 10 students. I’m certain that when the conclusion of your Grade 10 years was interrupted by COVID-19, many of you would not have predicted that you would spend the next two years making, learning in cohorts, social distancing, participating in online learning during school closures, missing out on field trips and extra-curricular events. Each of you was thrown into a storm of uncertainty and loss, but here you are, you persevered, you have made it.”
Johnson encouraged the graduates to continue setting goals and be the inspiration to the world around them.
“Pursue your dreams, set high expectations and be mindful of the people who have helped shape who you are and who you will become,” she said. “You truly represent GSSD’s vision of ‘learning without limits, achievement for all.’”
Tribute to First Nations
Paying tribute to First Nations, Lilyanna Quewezance said that she was given the best news in that she would have the honour of addressing gratitude to the First Nations people for their guidance.
“Today is a momentous occasion, as we walk across the stage welcoming our future,” Quewezance said. “To my people, through resilience you have paved the way for all to be standing here today. Through your teachings, I have been given the opportunity to practice my culture openly and portray how grateful I am by offering respect in everything I do. You have taught me how to be the humble, respectful young lady I am today. The teachings you have instilled in us, give us the confidence to pursue our future endeavours.
“I will forever be grateful to my knowledge keepers,” she said. “Migwec – thank you for sharing this day with us.”
In his reply, her father Alvin Quewezance, recalled that he had walked the halls of KCI 32 years ago. He encouraged graduates to be productive in society and continue to educate themselves.
Wishing them the best of luck, Quewezance said that the road to the future may not be easy.
Tribute to teachers
In her tribute to the teachers, Jordyn Thomas acknowledged that the job was not easy.
“We required a ton of patience and caused our teachers a lot of stress, but we couldn’t thank them enough for everything they have done for us,” Thomas said. “Our teachers are the reason we are sitting on this stage ready to take on the next step in our lives.
“It is our teachers who have taught us right from wrong, highly-needed life skills, how to set goals and achieve those goals, how to control and deal with all of our emotions, and most importantly, to be the persons we want to become, not the persons others want us to become.
“As we continue to grow, we will forever remember and apply everything our teachers have taught us,” she said. “We will move on with life and will realize just how important those lessons our teachers were trying so hard to engrave into our heads were. All of the advice they have given us will stick with us throughout the rest of our lives.
“It is sad to say that we will soon have to say goodbye to all of our teachers that have done so much for us throughout our many years of school. To all our teachers here at KCI, our elementary teachers down at Victoria School and previous teachers who have left, we may not have shown how much we appreciate everything you have done for us but we definitely do. We sit on this stage in hopes that we have made you all proud and on behalf of the graduating class of 2022, thank you.”
In her reply, Joanne Schwartz said that the graduation completes their job and urged them not to forget the teachers for they had students’ best interest at heart.
“Be proud, resilient and strong,” Schwartz said. “Go, embrace the world and do good. Your teachers will always remember you.”
Tribute to parents
Paying tribute to the parents, Kate Erhardt said that the day marks another big “first” for the parents.
“From our first cry, first walk, first day of school, comes today, our first graduation,” Erhardt said. “These are the people that have celebrated all of our successes and stayed by our sides since the very first day they met us. And sure, some of us may have been unexpected, but soon after, became the miracles our parents didn’t know they needed.
“Our parents are truly our unsung heroes. From helping us with our homework as much as they could and saying things like ‘math sure has changed since I was in school,’ or from driving us to our sports games and dentist appointments, even when they really didn’t feel like it, or even from listening to us fight with our siblings and thinking ‘when they’re teenagers that will stop’ and then soon finding out that it doesn’t.
“From sitting through countless Christmas concerts, awards shows, and parent-teacher interviews, our parents have truly been through it all,” she said. “Our parents have taken on a job that comes with great responsibility, and we will never be able to thank you enough for that.
“Thank you for always giving us a roof over our heads and a meal on the table, even if sometimes it wasn’t very good. Thank you for loving us even when we were spoiled 13-year-olds who seemed like we hated your existence. Thank you for dealing with the drama of friendships and relationships. And most of all, thank you for loving us no matter how much you had to threaten to stop the car and drop us off on the side of the road.
“To the mothers or motherly figures here today, I would like to thank you first and foremost. You took on the heavy task of childbirth and survived. We thank you for always keeping us on track because we know how painfully forgetful teenagers and dads are. You taught us to be sensitive and kind and always gave us a warm shoulder to cry on.
“To the fathers or fatherly figures, thank you for teaching us determination and that mowing the lawn is apparently not as easy as it looks. Being a dad isn’t just about sitting through painful dance recitals and teaching your kid to drive for the first time, it is also about teaching love and respect, and you all have done a fine job of that.
“I would like to thank the parents of my fellow graduates for raising such unique individuals. We have so much to offer the world in this class and I know your children will do great things.
“And to my own parents, thank you for teaching me that a pedestrian is in fact not a doctor and that I will always have someone to be proud of me no matter what I do.
“Parents, here is to another first of many! Congratulations grads of 2022, and remember, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but we got pretty close with ours.”
In her reply, Loretta Erhardt offered her sincere congratulations to each of the graduates.
“The global pandemic robbed you all of so many precious memories and I am so happy that you got to have the graduation you have been dreaming of,” she said. “We watched you grow from the crying, pant leg-clinging first day of pre-K and Kindergarten to the confident Grade 12 graduates you have become and we loved every minute of it; yes, even those teenage years.
“We would like to take all the credit for the amazing people you have become, but it truly takes a village to raise a child, so take time to acknowledge your wonderful teacher, coaches, friends, and extended family who have provided guidance, encouragement, love and support to you.
“We trust that we have guided you well and given you the right tools to flourish at whatever path you choose. Your future is right in front of you; you need to spread your wings and soar.
“Our wish is that you find what you want in life and what makes you happy. Whatever dreams you have, continue to dream big and know that we will continue to be behind you every step of the way. Listen to your inner voice and follow your heart,” she said, concluding with a Tim McGraw quote: “You’ve got mountains to climb but always stay humble and kind.”
Caps in the air
Dutch Wapash delivered the valedictorian’s address and then Tara Taylor introduced Ryan Lambert as the guest speaker.
The afternoon program ended with the graduates tossing their caps into the air. They reassembled at the school for a photograph of them in formal wear and then they boarded a flatbed and were paraded around the community to arrive for their banquet at the OCC Hall. The grand entrance and a PowerPoint presentation followed.