Five-time scholarship winner among those honoured at annual SIMFC grad ceremony
- Angela Hill | August 09, 2018
Grade 12 Indigenous students from across the Saskatoon came together in June to celebrate their successes at the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre’s 34th annual graduation ceremony.
“Every year we are seeing more and more graduates from an Indigenous background completing their high school education and that makes us so proud,” said Terry Gossen, graduation coordinator at the friendship centre.
About 190 graduates were recognized during the events held at the Grand Salon at TCU Place on June 14. Among them was Dawson Thomas, who graduated from Oskayak High School.
“To graduate and finally move on towards post-secondary, to move towards my career feels amazing. It feels like I am that one more step closer to getting my life on track,” he said.
He spoke during the celebration, giving the speech to the parents and support networks. He spoke about how their support pushed them, challenged them, and reminded them they can get up after failures and keep going. It was also all the simple things, like driving them to school, Thomas said.
“The little things really matter in the end. Those little things really count towards our successes.”
Thomas said throughout his education he moved a lot, and for a long time he didn’t feel a connection to his culture.
“I felt like I wasn’t sure who I really was,” but Thomas added, that his high school and the support from his mother changed that and made graduation possible. He plans on taking social work at university and says he wants to make a difference in the world.
The night itself was incredible said Summer Quewezance, who was also among the graduates.
“Being in a room with all of those people, it kind of blew my mind to see that there were so many First Nations and Métis people graduating,” she said. She received five scholarships that night and cheered as her close friend was recognized with a spirit award. “It just makes me so proud,” Quewezance said.
There was a photo booth for serious and fun photos, a candy bar, and grand march, but there was also ceremony included -- the students smudged and a drum group played, said Gossen. Then was the banquet where some of the graduates provided entertainment.
“What really stood out for me during the planning of the event was how talented and motivated and inspiring all of these young people are,” she said. In some cases, Gossen said she spoke with youth graduates that she has known since they were young. “It was really full circle for me.”
Thomas said during the grand march, there was clapping and cheering every time a graduate walked across the stage. “It was really amazing moment to be a part of it,” he said. “It felt like such a huge, empowering moment.”
As he walked around the event and met new people, Thomas said he realized that graduating didn’t mark the end of something, but the beginning of what comes next for the graduates.
“I know they will do great things,” he said.
The Saskatoon Indian Métis Friendship Centre celebrates their 50th anniversary in operation this year, making this year’s graduation even more special. The graduation ceremony is just one of the programs and services offered by the organization to support Indigenous people living in urban areas.