Sioux North High School Valedictory Address
Eric Goretzki - Valedictorian
Good afternoon honoured guests, our drum Makadaawa Makwa, administration, teachers, family, friends, my mother Viki! A special welcome to all family and friends who have travelled from northern communities and from out of town to be here today, as well as to everyone watching the live stream from home.
And of course, to all of you, the graduating class of 2022. Y’know guys, I think the fact that we got to be the class of ‘22 is really not talked about enough. I have an older brother who graduated in 2012, and I remember sitting at his ceremony, counting on my fingers for what year I was going to graduate... 2013...2014…2015…Woah! I get to be in the class with all of the 2’s! Man! That seemed so far away. But wow, here we are! If you look around this afternoon, you will see a room full of young adults with so much potential. Potential to do whatever our hearts desire. Potential to be doctors and nurses, or carpenters, or mechanics, chefs, and teachers, or astronauts and engineers, and amazing mothers and fathers.
Just think of the talented people who are coming out of the tiny little towns of Sioux Lookout, Hudson, Lac Seul, Big Trout Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Cat Lake, Deer Lake, Wunnumin, Sachigo, Muskrat Dam, Slate Falls, Bearskin, Weagamow,
Being from smaller communities, we don’t always have access to things that people in larger cities do. We don’t have shopping malls, bowling alleys, movie theatres, and now that I think about it, even a stop light, but the great thing about living in small, rural communities like ours is that whenever you need somebody, they are never very difficult to find.
Not only are they easy to find because you could wander around Fresh Market Foods for a day and see every resident of Sioux Lookout at one point or another, but they are easy to find because they want to be there for you.
I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who has always supported us. Thank you to the teachers for helping guide us and keep us on track along the way to allow us to get to this point. Thank you to the administrators for lobbying to make this school the best place it can be.
Thank you to the janitors, because, wow, is your job at this school hard some days. Especially with all of the Covid protocols in place at schools. Lots of hand sanitizing and wiping things down. Thank you to the maintenance people, especially when we first got to this new school. There was a lot for you to figure out in just a short amount of time. Fair Convenience! Thank you for always being there, in our many times of need.
And more thank yous to all the other people who helped us along the way: people such as the education authorities, all of the 4D support, house counsellors, boarding homes, and so many more. There is a countless amount of great things that you did to help this class achieve success.
Now speaking of our class a little bit. (Some might say the greatest graduating class this school has ever seen.) The one thing that can be said for certain about the class of 2022 is… Wow! We are a tough, resilient group of students. Our grade has sure been through a lot together. Whether it be being the first group of students to experience all 4 years of high school in the new building and all of the challenges that came with navigating that, living through the Covid-19 pandemic, and even having to do the dreaded literacy test… Or we thought we were going to have to do the literacy test anyways. That is one benefit that Covid brought us at least. But for real guys, look at us now. Here we are, all together, despite the fact that many of us had our final classes from remote locations, and are walking the halls this week for the first time in months. We are finally starting to come out of the other side of all of these challenges.
Speaking of the pandemic, we definitely had some interesting experiences that came in the form of our “online classes”. Our gym classes became running around the front yard all alone, and trust me, trying to play dodgeball by yourself just doesn’t quite feel the same. Our construction classes became putting up a shelf in the kitchen because for whatever reason moms didn’t want us renovating our bathrooms all on our own.
Although parents didn’t always want us renovating our houses all on our own, I am sure they were thankful for our online cooking classes. I know my parents were always telling me, “Making dinner would be a great assignment for cooking class.” I don’t even want to know what the life of the sibling of an aesthetics student was like during that time.
All jokes aside, during our online classes we developed a lot of great character traits that we will carry forward into the next part of our lives. Skills such as perseverance, determination, dedication, patience, the ability to work independently, and to improvise at very short notice sometimes. The dedication and determination it took for all of us to keep going is something we should all be extremely proud of. Our online classes also gave us the opportunity to spend more time with our families. In a world where life goes so fast, being able to spend more time with family was a great thing for all of us. So, despite all of the many challenges and annoyances that came with the Covid-19 pandemic, there were also many great skills we were able to improve on, that we may not have developed otherwise.
We dealt with our fair share of challenges aside from Covid as well. At one point or another many of us thought “Ugh I sure can’t wait to get out of this place”. Maybe this feeling for some of you came and went, while for others you’ve been feeling that since the first day of Grade 9.
Although we’ve all had certain experiences about high school that we didn’t love, there’s a lot about Sioux North that we’re going to miss. We’re going to miss playing school sports or even watching and cheering on our Warriors whenever we got the chance. Sometimes that was in person, other times it was watching over the live streams. As an athlete, even though we couldn’t always have fans in the building, it was always awesome to know that there were still fans watching from home. We are going to miss procrastinating an assignment till the very last minute, but still managing to get it done and getting a good grade. We were going to miss expressing ourselves creatively in our art, music and drama classes. We’re going to miss getting to work on all sorts of projects in our shop classes, but I think most of all we are going to miss coming to this building and seeing each other every day of the week.
Because we have spent a whole lot of time together, we have developed different friendships with one another that will connect us forever as the Class of 2022.
Going back to school sports for a minute, I want to take a moment to mention all of the phenomenal sports teams students in our grade were a part of. We had some great hockey players, basketball players, volleyball players, curlers, soccer players, badminton players, golfers and although we only had wrestling in Grade 9, we had some amazing wrestlers as well. There were 18 different sports teams that made NorWOSSA with members of our graduating class on them throughout our high school experience. Considering we had basically 2 years of sports cancelled, this is a very impressive feat. And for those who didn’t participate in sports, we had students succeed in other ways. Many of us are honour roll students! Many students were able to step out of their comfort zone and express themselves in art classes, and all of us were amazing friends for each other.
Our graduating class is truly special, and moving forward, it is going to be a wild ride for all of us. Things will start to feel fast-paced and stressful, but I know we will all get through it. Whether we’re going off to university, college, going straight into the workplace, travelling, starting your own business or are going to pursue starting a family, I think that it’s fair to say that our lives are going to change dramatically. There’s no more chit chatting with Mrs. Briones in the halls on our way to our classes. Gone are the days of pickleball with Mr. MacRae at lunch time. No more jam sessions with Mr. Armstrong. We have even had our last hot dog lunch with Mr. Greene.
However, the next few years we are going to make countless new memories that will stay with us forever. I believe that great advice for all of us to follow is just to take life day by day and live to the fullest because we all have the ability to do anything.
I want to leave you all with a quote that comes from the amazing children’s movie Kung Fu Panda: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” I’ve been told this actually was originally said by Elenor Rosevelt, but I think Kung Fu Panda suits our grade much better. Either way, the message is something that we can also take forward in life. It is important for all of us to appreciate every moment we live in life. Lots of times we tend to worry about what is going to happen in the future or stress about what we did in the past. The truth is, we need to spend less time worrying about the past and the future and spend more time appreciating what is happening now. And what is happening right now, in this moment, is an amazing thing!
To finish this off, I want to give one quick message to Mr. Kiepek. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Kiepek and I are both named Eric, and for years he has told me that there’s only enough room for one Eric in Sioux North High School. So congratulations to you Mr. ERIC Kiepek, you’ve outlasted me!
Again, to my fellow graduates of 2022, congratulations to each and every one of you. Before I get off this stage I want to try to do one more thing, and I’m going to need a little bit of audience participation. We are going to do a little Warrior chant together.
I’m going to say “Warriors on 3”, and when I point the mic out to you, I want everyone out there to yell “1, 2, 3, Warriors” back.
Warriors on 3
That was awesome! Thank you everyone, and best of luck to all the graduates!