Sooke district’s Aboriginal grads celebrate school journey

‘It’s such a beautiful day with such power and such good feeling’

The four valedictorians at Wednesday’s annual recognition ceremony for Aboriginal graduates in the Sooke school district made special preparations for their duties.

“We had the valedictorians go on a canoe journey with the chief of the T’Sou-ke Nation to give them a symbolic protocol of their journey from kindergarten to Grade 12,” said Kathleen King, the Sooke district’s principal for Aboriginal education. “When they’re on the water, the work that is done there gives them the confidence and strength to share their powerful words.

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“So we’re very appreciative of the T’Sou-ke Nation and Chief Gordon Planes.”

The valedictorians are A.J. Boersen Jr. from Belmont Secondary, Taylor Farmer from Edward Milne Community School, Daisy Makieff from Royal Bay Secondary and Kaitlin Kauffman from the Westshore Centre for Learning and Training.

Eighty-seven graduates were honoured in all.

Chiefs, elders and councillors from local First Nations offered greetings and speeches at the ceremony.

The event — held at Na’tsa’maht, the Aboriginal gathering place at Camosun College — began with drumming and a procession of graduates. Students will also attend the regular graduation ceremonies held for their schools, but King said being able to take part in an Aboriginal event as well means a lot.

“They are so proud,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful day with such power and such good feeling. It’s so uplifting.”

The district has a 70 per cent Aboriginal high-school completion rate, the same as the provincial rate.

“We’re very proud of our graduation rate,” King said.

The provincial completion rate for Aboriginal students has climbed considerably over the past decade, from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to 70 per cent in 2017-18.

The completion rate for all students was 85 per cent in 2017-18.

King said there are 1,173 Aboriginal students in the school district, about 10 per cent of the total.

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