OHSWEKEN – Students from the alternative learning classroom within the Youth Lodge graduated within the G.R.E.A.T Theatre on Wednesday, June 22, in front of friends, family, and peers.
Following light refreshments, keynote speakers and presentations from Haudenosaunee social dancing to a short film; students were awarded certificates and hawk feathers in commemoration of completed courses and earned credits.
“I’m so proud, I can’t even tell you how proud I am,” said Sandra Montour, Ganohkwasra’s Executive Director. “It was very emotional to hear the students speaking the language and knowing the little steps that they made to be able to get that,” she said, mentioning student Bryce Elliott, who said the Thanksgiving Address in Mohawk alongside Councillor Joe Martin.
“I’m just really proud. This has been a goal of Ganohkwasra’s and this has been a dream of ours for probably the last 13 years, so to see it unfolding the way it is, [is exactly what we had hoped and aspired for with this classroom, and it’s wonderful to see them achieving it],” she said.
The alternative learning classroom is considered a Section 23 classroom, which provides educational services and programming for students unable to attend mainstream secondary school, and addresses each student’s individual, social, academic and emotional needs while earning high school credits.
“It’s a unique classroom because like I said, it integrates education with therapeutic programming and then the culture. So, it’s a weaving of all of those aspects, and makes it that unique,” she said.
Within this unique classroom is Instructor Julia Jamieson, who also shares a sense of pride in the students for their accomplishments in and out of the classroom.
“I’m so, so proud of them because they were very organic and honest in their presentation and they were hugely supportive of one another,” said Jamieson. “What they learned in the classroom in regards to having support in the classroom, they showed that right back and you could see it and feel it.”
“I think that when they go to sleep tonight they will go to sleep with a smile, I think they will have a sense of pride and be proud of the choice that they made to do what they did,” she said.
Along with understanding that this program is something that has been in the making for years, Montour also wanted to share thanks for the support of others in bringing the classroom to reality.
“I really have to acknowledge the Six Nations Community Trust Fund, they’re part-funders and they fund the classroom councillor who is key to the success of this program,” said Montour. “Also, the Grand Erie District School Board is also a partner in this, and they fund the teacher in this program. And of course, the Youth Lodge itself is funded by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, so I think it’s really important to acknowledge our funders that believed in us to make this happen.”
All in all, the presentations were very heart felt and at times, very funny; and the ceremony itself is a process that is hoped to benefit these students and to be shared with more in the future.