HEINSBURG - Proud families filled the gymnasium at Heinsburg Community School on Friday evening to celebrate the successful completion of their high school years for the seven graduates of the Class of 2023.
Marie Zayac and Cheri Lindquist welcomed the visitors, introducing special guests, including St. Paul Education Regional Division superintendent Peter Barron and assistant superintendent Keith Gamblin after Travis Thomas started the evening with an honour song.
The grads entered through a balloon-bordered arch to take their places at the head table before elder Edna Waskahat gave the blessing for the barbecue dinner, and later, now clad in caps and gowns, the Class of 2023 made their grand entrance and took their places on stage.
Frog Lake First Nations councillors Adriana Waskahat and Wanda Stanley brought greetings from the council, Waskahat thanking the elders and parents and bringing greetings on behalf of the chief and other councillors, who were attending another graduation that evening. “We are very proud of you, you look beautiful. While you are walking into your future, don’t let anything get you down, remember that you have so much support behind you. You did it, give yourselves a pat on the back.”
Stanley added congratulations, and urged the class, “Stay safe tonight.” Frog Lake Education Authority members Wanda Henderson and Cherrell Quinney were next, Henderson remembering when “your parents cried as they put you on the bus for kindergarten… you had long bus rides. Today is your day, your parents cry again, grateful to see you succeed. Today is a day to put in your toolbox. To graduate is a gift, now you chase your dreams.”
Sasha Quinney thanked the school staff and parents “for pushing us to get here,” and “all the staff for helping us achieve our goals.” Gabrielle Matchatis replied, “It was your decision that got you here,” with Billy Quinney adding, “You do look amazing, there were some tears shed. We are so very proud of all of you. Whatever you choose to do, we’ll be right behind you.”
Brenda Paulo-Begg replied on behalf of the teachers, thanking the grads “for your generous words. Follow your dreams, and don’t let anybody stop you. You worked hard. Now, make good choices.”
Before the grads accepted eagle feathers from the elders, Martha Matchatis explained the significance of the feathers they would receive. “The eagle is very wise and respected. He flies the highest and we ask Grandfather Eagle to take our message to the heavens.” She added hope that “you go out there and soar like the eagle.”
Following a slide show and videotaped message from MP Shannon Stubbs, Heinsburg Principal Carmen McLeod came forward to present the diplomas and gifts after thanking families, staff, school trustees, grad committee and parents, and the grads for “being positive role models. This is a successful ending to a journey that started 13 years ago. You are a class that is a clear picture of what Heinsburg School is all about. Pursue your dreams, pursue your passions. Don’t forget where you came from, honour your roots. You have a bright future, full of opportunity.”