PFFNHS celebrates graduates with virtual ceremony
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Pelican Falls First Nations High School (PFFNHS) recently celebrated this year’s graduating class with a virtual graduation ceremony.
“It went well, considering this is our first attempt to our virtual graduation ceremony. Of course, there were some technical hiccups in the beginning with some audio or some videos that worked the minute that we were able to figure it out. But, overall, considering that it is all done internally…it went very well,” said PFFNHS Principal Darrin Head.
The May 13 ceremony acknowledged 17 students who worked their way through the challenges of the pandemic. Head said, “Seventeen of them graduating was really inspirational, because it just shows their resilience and how hard they were able to work. COVID threw all kinds of challenges and obstacle in the way, but they were still able to get through.” He added that they tried to follow their usual format as much possible, mimicking the in-person ceremony.
“Typically we would have a feast following the graduation ceremony for all the grads, and their families and attendants. But because everybody was attending virtually, we actually set up a process where the families could feast themselves in their own homes and we just provided them with the way to purchase the food, and they would feast their own graduates in their own household,” said Head.
PFFNHS Vice-Principal Nathan Hunter said that this year’s grad photos took place in the students’ home communities. “We ended up sending gowns and hats and tassels to our graduates. Then it was coordinated with our partners in the communities and they had somebody take their pictures and send them back to us. So we are able to have grad pics at our ceremony.” Students received a virtual diploma on the day of the ceremony, with an official hard copy having been sent in the mail, along with their graduation gifts.
Head said, “We had our NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler submit a video, NAN Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox joined us live, MPP Sol Mamakwa joined us live for a little congratulations to our graduates.” Tanya Talaga was the guest speaker for the virtual graduation ceremony, he added.
Hunter said, “Every year Pelican Falls does an accelerated school year. We start the last week of August and we have longer class periods, so that our students finish their first semester at Christmas, and we followed that same model this year, with the exception of instead of being semesters, we did quad-mesters, and I think that the school year was very challenging for staff and students. Having to connect over the virtual platforms was definitely a different angle or, a different approach was needed by our teachers, to be able to remain in contact with those students, and finding new and engaging ways of getting content to the students in a meaningful way.”
Head said that virtual learning posed several challenges for the students. He added, “Connectivity in Sioux Lookout is excellent compared to what you would get for connectivity in bandwidth in our First Nations communities north of Sioux Lookout. So, just that alone is a change getting materials for art or science or whatever course is, getting it into the hands of the students in a timely manner, having to ship it north, it’s a challenge. So, oftentimes students would be waiting a bit for resources that are needed for their courses. Considering all of those challenges I think it was a successful year. But, we are all looking forward to students, staff, everybody, we are all looking forward to the day we can all be back together again at the school, learning in-person.”
Hunter commended this year’s graduates on their ability to stick to their paths, continue to learn virtually for over a year, and graduate in these difficult times. “They can really feel proud of their achievements and look back at having overcome what was put in front of them this year, as an example of what they are capable of, and just for them to continue on with whatever their educational journey is, and to remember that even if they are not engaging in some type of post secondary studies, that everyone is lifelong winners,” concluded Hunter.
This year’s graduating students were:
Cleopatra Fiddler - Sandy Lake
Reico Meekis - Sandy Lake
Talon Anderson - Cat Lake
Hillary Barkman - Sachigo Lake
Jaynelle Beardy - Kingfisher Lake
Logan Fiddler - Sandy Lake
Dylan Kakekagumick - North Spirit Lake
Ava Keewaykapow - North Spirit Lake
Faith Keewaykapow - North Spirit Lake
Tiberius Martin-Mamakwa - Wunnumin Lake
Aiden McKay - Bearskin Lake
Alyssa McKinney - Fort Severn
Nicholas McPherson - Sandy Lake
Chasity Oombash-Bighead - Cat Lake
Reanna Owen - Poplar Hill
Joanna Quequish - Weagamow Lake
Aliciyah Rae - Sandy Lake