Despite the drone of an OPP helicopter searching the nearby waterway for missing teen Josia Begg, the 32 graduating students from Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School who lined up outside the CLE Coliseum on Wednesday were able to focus on something positive.
The young graduates, their families and peers, gathered for a ceremony commemorating their journey to achieve a secondary school education. For some, that journey wasn’t easy.
Class valedictorian Keelan Meekis said his message to his classmates was to reflect on where they came from at such a young age — including the difficulty of leaving their families and community to come to Thunder Bay for high school — the struggles they faced, and how they overcame them.
“Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School became a new home for us,” he said.
“I want my fellow students to know you are important, know your are here for a reason and you can make a positive change. Chase your dreams.”
Meekis sported an elaborate, beaded tie that was made by his aunt, Evelyn Meekis, as a graduation present. He plans to attend Confederation College in the fall to study general arts and science, with policing as a possible future career.
Sarah Johnson, a native language, native studies and civics teacher at DFC said that the graduating students come from far north communities across Northwestern Ontario.
“This is a milestone for them because many of our students come from First Nation communities and they have been working hard to get to today,” said Johnson. “It’s a special time for them and their families and we, as staff, are family to them as well.”
The Coliseum was decorated with an elaborate stage, hundreds of red, white, black and yellow balloons and tables with matching linen. The graduates sported red graduation gowns and caps as they accepted their diplomas and achievement awards.
“We are so proud of them and their achievements,” said Johnson. “We congratulate them for their success.”