A record breaking 21 students from Tuktoyaktuk’s Mangilaluk School received their high school diplomas on June 20, making them the largest graduating class in the school’s history.
“It was hard, it was challenging, but they made it through. Lots of sweat and tears, but they made it,” said vice principal Ephraim Warren, who’s also a senior math and science teacher.
The school’s gym was packed with teary eyed friends, parents and siblings who cheered on every graduate as they made their way across the stage and received their diplomas.
“A very challenging group. But they were a fun challenging group. They were a group that were very energetic, very positive,” said Warren. “They had great supportive parents. They’re going to dream big and they’re going to go far.”
This group, he continued, has paved a path for other community members to walk along.
“Their brothers, sisters – there’s people in the community right now that only need a few credits to graduate, so it’s going to encourage them to come back and finish,” he said.
School principal Krista Cudmore echoed Warren’s sentiments, adding that the group has inspired others to follow in their footsteps.
“There’s quite a few that are first time grads in their family, and then they have five or six siblings coming underneath them,” said Cudmore. “The fact that they’re the first one who actually did it, it paves the path for some other ones.”
What made the group so special, she continued, was how tight-knit they were.
“From a very young age, they were very protective of each other. They had their good days with each other and they had struggles, but they were very close knit along the way,” she said.
Recent graduate John Noksana described the relationship that he has with his fellow peers as a brotherhood.
“I grew up with these kids. There’s a few people I didn’t know were graduating,” said Noksana. “These guys, I grew up with. At the end of the day, I’m really glad to be a part of this group.”
Michele Tomasino, a senior high school teacher who teaches grades 10 through 12, said that she fell in love with the group as soon as she started teaching them.
“We connected with each other. We connected and it worked. It’s all about that relationship,” said Tomasino. “You build relationships with the people you see every single day. You become a family. We did that.”
The key to the group’s success, she said, was the support that they had for one another.
“We supported them and they supported each other. That’s what you need. Its teamwork,” she said.
She added that she’s going to miss every one of the graduates, who she described as a “loving, lovable chunk of beautiful kids.”
“I really do feel that they will succeed. They’re strong and smart, and they have courage,” she said. “They have the balls to make things happen. They really do. I think that they will succeed and I can’t wait to see where they go.”