University College of the North students celebrate graduation

June 18 marked a special day for 88 students at the University College of the North (UCN) as they dressed in cap and gown, and walked across the stage to collect their diploma, certificate or degree.

The graduation, which took place in the Gordon Beard arena of the Thompson Regional Community Centre, brought in a lot of congratulatory messages, from many different people. Konrad Jonasson, president and vice-chancellor, brought greetings first. “What you’ve accomplished today can be owned, and it can not be taken away from you. The mandate of the University College of the North is to provide educational opportunities for aboriginal and Northern Manitobans. I think we have done the first part.”

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Jonasson continued by saying he has the confidence that the graduates will succeed in life, because during their time at UCN they have demonstrated their will to keep going.

Stella Neff spoke on behalf of the council of elders about how important it is that Thompson students are graduating in Thompson now. “We are so proud to stand in front of you and witness this event. For so many years our students went south, they graduated down south, and their families would never all go, but you are all so lucky because you have the elders with you, your families are here, and you’re educated in the north, and can now work in the north.”

Greeting from the governing council came from Dwight Botting, who spoke about how the piece of paper that graduates receive would stay with them forever, and it is an accomplishment no one can take away from them, and for them to cherish it.

Deputy mayor Penny Byer, brought greetings on behalf of the City of Thompson. “I know many of you have children, and trying to struggle getting children to daycare, or helping them with homework, while you have your own assignment, or maybe there was an illness, or maybe you weren’t feeling well. You had to overcome so many things, with being a parent, and being a student.”

The valedictory address came from Melynda Ehman, who graduated from the office assistant program, through the Faculty of Arts, Business and Sciences. Ehman was chosen as valedictorian because of her high GPA, her dedication to studies, as well as helping others as a peer teacher, and a tutor.

Ehman moved to Thompson two years ago, and during her speech she thanked her boyfriend, her family, and teachers for helping her get to this point in life. “It has been a long and demanding journey. We’ve had some of the best moments of our lives, and some moments we hope we could forget. I truly feel privileged to be standing in front of you all today.”The graduate finished by wishing her classmates luck. “Learning is a life long event. Be role models for your children, and communities, mentors for others, and always be kind to yourself. Find the balance between work and home, while challenging yourself to continue to learn.”

Awards were given to several students for their hard work. Amanda McDonald won the Heidi Jaremy Leadership Award for her studies in nursing. The outstanding performance and achievements award went to Samantha Wiwcharuk, who studied in the office assistant program.

The outstanding academic achievement awards went to Martina Horayi, Kerri Wheaton and Emily Sawatzky. The outstanding achievement awards went to students in the adult learning centre programs; Joel Highway, Amalia Pope, Janelle Gossfeld, Marion Ross and Effie Yellowback.

Nancy Swanson won the outstanding proficiency in the overall program for the Kenanow Bachelor Education award, and the Lori Apetagon Award for the student who best demonstrated balance between school and family went to Lonnie Duncan.

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