The evening of June 8, 2001, will always be remembered by me and my family. This was the evening that our oldest son, Christopher Junior, graduated from grade 12 at Ecole Theriault, in Timmins Ontario.

As a parent, the moment when your oldest graduates is indeed a proud one. It is an accomplishment that this boy made it to this level. Like any other teenager, he had his problems along the way. At one time, he just wanted to come home. He neglected to ask for help when he was having trouble with his schoolwork. I am sure that others have gone through the same experience, especially when many of our students are at schools in different parts of the province or country.

You have to understand that my boy, at age 16, has accomplished something that many people will never experience, that is to receive a paper that recognizes his accomplishments. Although he is young, the road to get this piece of paper was not easy, and as parents, we had to talk to him many times to encourage him to keep going.

Coming from a small community and going south to go to school must have been scary at the beginning. I felt that loneliness when I first left to go to school at Philemon Wright in Hull, Quebec. This was at the beginning of the Cree School Board years. It may have been a little bit different, since there were many of us and we were able to speak our language and support each other. Christopher was the only Native student out of a student population of approximately 1200. Therefore, I am sure that Christopher has had some loneliness problems while at school. Although Timmins High is just across the street from many Ontario Crees, it was not always possible for him to go visit.

The graduating class for this year at Theriault had approximately 200 students. It was a long, 3½ hour ceremony and we were tired, since we only arrived late the night before. We had to get up early since my wife and I did not have anything appropriate to wear for the ceremony. Sure we were tired, but we knew what we had to do to make this a memorable occasion, where our boy also needed appropriate attire for his special night. We were still running around at 6:00 PM, trying to find the right shoes for our boy, this is excruciatingly boring, since there are other things that one can do. However, this was made easier, knowing that the occasion was special.

Along with us for the ceremony were two of Christopher’s friends, Hannah and Willie, very well mannered young people from Albany, Ontario. The ceremony was very long, especially when you have approximately 800 people crammed into an auditorium. In the end it was all worth it to witness one of your own receive a piece of paper recognizing the hard work he did throughout the year.

I want to say to all those students out there, that anything is possible when you work hard towards your goals. You will make mistakes like everybody else, but don’t get discouraged, just work to correct them. I may sound like I am preaching, but that is not it. I have experienced both successes and failures in my life. I sometimes think about what I could have done, but I always remember that today is a new day, and this day is special. I am still feeling emotional as I write this piece – that is how proud I was of my son that evening. To all those who will be graduating this year, congratulations, and to all our students, wherever you may be, make us proud. Dreams can come true with some hard work and dedication. Meegwetch. Wachiya.