Students at Northern College in Moosonee, Ontario, celebrated their graduation from the Academic and Career Entrance (ACE), Personal Support Worker, and Social Service Worker programs.

The ACE program is the school’s high school equivalency degree, which allows students who lack a high-school diploma to earn eligibility for many college and university programs across the country. The full-time program is demanding for the students, many of whom have children, but the opportunities it opens are worth the short nights of sleep, according to students.

“Personally, there have been many obstacles and struggles for myself while attending the ACE program,” said Jessica Linklater, the valedictorian for the program. “There were many times when I felt giving up was the only option I had. My biggest motivations were the ones who call me mom, because my education is for them. I want to give my children the future that they deserve with many opportunities and dreams for them to chase.”

While some are moving on to the college-level programs at the school, all of the students expect to contribute positively to the communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory.

Tim Robinson, the ceremony’s guest speaker, summed up this sentiment in his speech: “Your careers are incredibly valuable to the communities in which you serve. We need you.”