Geraldine Shecapio and Jessica Jolly got their own special graduation bash in Mistissini on September 2 when teachers and staff pulled out all the stops for the two teenagers. While the community may have only been celebrating two graduates, according to their principal they were the first two grads to come out of Voyageur Memorial School since 2006.
“I am so proud of the two, I am beyond proud! I keep saying that they are my first two since they really are the first two students who have graduated since I have been here,” said Principal Judith Michel.
According to Michel, there is a major hope that Shecapio and Jolly’s graduation may be the event that bucks the trend and that the community will start seeing more graduates. Mistissini had not seen any graduates come out of the local high-school program since 2006.
“We had this big graduation just for two students and while some people said that they are just two, I kept saying that no, they are THE TWO. They are the two who will be turning things around now for us,” said Michel.
This year Voyager Memorial has a total of 13 students who could potentially graduate in the spring of 2012.
So, in celebrating their success, Secondary 1 and 2 teacher Betty Anne Forward decided to team up with other Voyageur Memorial staff members to ensure that the two girls had a memorable celebration to commemorate the special event.
“We had a really nice celebration for them. All of the teaching staff and all of the family members and friends who they had invited came together for this event. Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff was there and acted as the emcee for the evening. We did everything these girls wanted. They wanted lasagna so we even had a caterer make it for this special event,” said Forward.
Forward ensured that the two girls were each given beautiful handmade sashes with Native adornments to wear over their graduation robes as a special celebration of the event.
One of the girls’ Secondary 5 teachers, Bethany Dooley, even flew in from Newfoundland just for a few hours to attend the event in honour of the two. Dooley had to fly back out that night but made the effort because their graduation was so monumental.
“She (Dooley) told me that she was really proud of both of us and always knew that we would do it,” said Shecapio.
In her graduation speech, Shecapio thanked each of the teachers who had helped her along the way to success, getting each one to stand up and accept applause out of her gratitude.
“I feel really proud of myself. It is something that I have wanted to accomplish since I was a kid and it feels really good to graduate so that I can do something that I have wanted to do,” said Shecapio, now away to study in the Pathways program at Heritage College in Gatineau.
Shecapio’s co-graduate Jolly had to attend summer school to be able to graduate but persevered to also have her moment in the sun. She too is now away in Val-d’Or attending Cégep.
“I feel like this is a really big accomplishment. It was hard but it’s the kind of thing that if you keep working at it you will get it done,” said Jolly.
Jolly also credited her school success to her teachers and her parents in particular. She said she was grateful to her mother for getting her up every morning and her father for supporting her through the whole process. She is hopeful that her younger brother who is now in Secondary 5 will also graduate like she did come spring of 2012.