by Lisa McKenna
“I just want to say a word about this year’s graduating class in Dawson – what a nice bunch of kids!” – Clair Dragoman
On June 4th seventeen of our children graduated from Robert Service School and began their journey into adulthood. Graduation in Dawson is when the community becomes a family. The graduates marched proudly on to the stage, at the Palace Grand Theatre, to the strains of AC/DC’s” Back in Black”, followed by an astounding rendition of “Oh Canada” sung by Tracy Nordick, whose voice sent shivers through the audience.
Brian Pate and his wife, “… came several thousand miles” ( from Vancouver, B.C.) to witness their grandson’s “coming of age”.
Mimi Elliot, a former teacher at Robert Service, proudly watched, for the 3rd time, one of her grandchildren graduating and thought it was ” so much fun” to see the children of her former students up on the stage.
The support from the community, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, sons, and daughters was, and is, overwhelming. Everyone comes together to let these new young adults know that we are always behind them.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Ed Taylor informed the grads, and their supporters, that, “… if their plans for the future change…that’s okay, if they go “outside” to work or study…that’s okay. They have to live their dreams and if their dreams change…that’s okay too, they are always welcome home.”
“You can always come back, you can always return home, you are always welcome, the community knows you and always will.”
He brought a round of “Mähsi cho’s” to the grads, their parents, teachers and principal, and before he left the stage he reminded the “kids” to be safe, and to wake up in the morning happy.
Steve Nordick personally congratulated each and every one of the graduates and said that he saw, ”… hope and the drive to succeed in all of you. Don’t be afraid to set goals but also don’t be afraid to change them. Change is the only thing in life that is certain.”
In closing he offered any and all assistance to each and every one of the grads in anything they needed help with in the future: “My door is always open.”
Mayor Peter Jenkins then spoke about his pride for the graduates and their parents. Then he offered some advice, or should I say, laid down the laws, according to Mr. Bill Gates. After changing hats. he presented a bursary on behalf of the Masonic Lodge #45, Dawson, to Miss Katrina Kocsis.
Sue Lancaster, chair of the School Council, congratulated the grads and informed them that later on this summer they would all receive a DVD of the events of the afternoon and evening.
Then began one of the most touching scenes of the ceremony. Mr. Jim Leary was to award the Mary Gartside Award to the Grade 12 student who had achieved the top academic score.
Mary Gartside was the principal at Robert Service School from 1955 to 1967 and she began this Dawson tradition. The Yukon Order of Pioneers (Y.O.O.P.) has taken over the awarding of this plaque and also awarded a bursary of $250 to the recipient. This year’s recipient was none other than Mr. Leary’s own son Bryan.
As the plaque and cash were turned over to Bryan, Jim Leary, his father exchanged hugs and a few tears and fairly shouted out to the audience, “THIS BOY…THIS IS MY BOY…AND I’M PROUD OF HIM.”
As Bryan sat back down, hugging his plaque, wiping a tear from his eye, the whole audience gave a collective “awww”. You see? Do you see how much this community supports and loves our children? Young adults, or not, they are still our kids and we are so proud of them. As we should be.
Superintendent Greg Storey, on behalf of the Department of Education, thanked the parents for all their hard work and quoted Gary Golding to the grads, “Your families are very proud of you today. You can’t imagine the sense of relief they are experiencing. This would be an opportune time to ask for money.” He talked to the teachers as to their importance in peoples lives and he, even thanked Joe Karmel, “for principals have a job as well.”
His advice to the students was that, “… the world is actually a wonderful place” and that one should, “… have faith in yourself, have courage and perseverance.” He also wondered how, now that he was 50, how Bryan Leary, at 18, could grow a beard like that!
Principal Joe Karmel commented on the “gift” of education and how with life experiences the “gift” will grow but to beware of the “double-edged sword”, for education could, “… be used to make the world a much better place for everyone, but it can also be used to maintain the status quo, it can be used to retain poverty, it can be used to retain inequality.”
The Valedictorian Award was presented not only to the student who had the highest scholastic achievements but also to the student who had done things, who was able, “… to do, able to act, on what they knew.” This student was none other than Mr. Bryan Leary.
Principal Jo Karmel had to raise the mike for Bryan, which got a burst of laughter from the crowd, and Bryan delivered a serious but humorous speech to the delight of the crowd.
After lowering the mike, Mr. Karmel invited the friends and families of the graduates to come forward and feel free to take pictures of the handing out of the graduation certificates. After this occurred Hailey Wallace led the grads off the stage… directly onto the fire escape! But that was okay, as it has been said before, “they can always come back”, and back they came, but this time they headed out the front door towards their future.
The Class of 2011 was comprised of Monica Beets, Ginette Brisebois, Stephanie Dragoman, Meghan Elliot, Jenelle Favron, Heather Fraser, Gaven Johnson, Marshall Jonas, Katrina Kocsis, Bryan Leary, Jordan Lord, Hayley Reimer, Tanner Sidney, Andrew Taylor, Nancy-Jane Taylor, Tanis Van Bibber, and Hailey Wallace.