With schools being closed since March, including no in-school classroom learning, students anticipating graduating this year could not attend their graduation ceremonies.These ceremonies were one of many events across the world that have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
To help lift the spirits of Six Nations youth, Councillor Helen Miller approached the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council over a month ago, with the idea of hosting a drive-by graduation. After receiving approval, Councillor Miller was tasked with spearheading the initiative.
Miller not only took the pandemic and the cancellation of graduation ceremonies and turned it into something positive but she states that this is something that has been weighing heavily on her mind during her years as an elected official.
“Over the 16 years of being a councillor, I heard from other territories how they honoured their grads. Some held community picnics. Others held community dinners. Mind you they didn’t have as many grads as Six Nations. Six Nations has over 200 grads. The list goes on of what all our people are accomplishing. The schools have their honouring ceremonies, graduations. We celebrate our children’s accomplishments as families but as a community, we haven’t had a community celebration for our graduates. The restrictions from COVID19 gave me the opportunity to honor our graduates as a community. I’m thankful that the current SNGREC supported me to organize the event.”
Around 35 graduates attended the ceremony from area elementary and highschools including: Hagersville Secondary School, McKinnon Park, BCI, Pauline Johnson, Assumption College, North Park, Waterford High, St. John’s College, I.L. Thomas, J.C. Hill, Emily C General, O.M. Smith, Kaawenni:io/Gaweni:yo, Holy Trinity, Tollgate and Cayuga Secondary.
Students lined up strategically in the parking lot at the Gathering Place by the Grand as over 100 decorated vehicles lined up and slowly drove by the students honking and waving and showing support to all the graduating students. Many students donned their traditional regalia.
Miller writes, “I appreciate all the students who came out and stood in the hot sun waiting for the cars to drive by. I was absolutely amazed at the number of parents, family and community members who came out. I am beyond words so proud of our students and community.”
Students not only received a first of its kind drive-by graduation in their honour but they also received a reusable face mask with their graduating year, a bundle of sweetgrass and a gift card.
“They say it takes a community to raise a child. I say it takes a community to host a Community Drive-by Graduation,” writes Miller who stated that this is an historic event because it is the first time a community graduation has ever been held amid a pandemic on Six Nations.
Miller would like to thank those who helped make this event possible: Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council; Felecia White; Dean Hill; Paul Porter; Wendy Staats; Debra and Lew; Bush and Adam Skye; Councillors Sherrilynn Hill Pierce, Nathan Wright, Michelle Bomberry and Audrey Powless Bomberry; Rod Whitlow; Amber Porter; Debra Martin; Millie Miller; Claudia Miller; Tilia and Jake Skye; Six Nations Police; Six Nations Public Works; Six Nations Health Services; Our Sustenance Program; Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation; Six Nations Bingo Hall; Tracey Anthony of Vision Artworks; CKRZ; Jukasa Radio; Jeannie Martin; Lori Skye; and, all the elementary school principals for helping with invitations.