RSS Grads advised to be true to themselves and remember their home

It wouldn’t be a proper Commencement ceremony without the traditional hat toss.

Story & Photos
By Dan Davidson

The Palace Grand Theatre was packed on June 1 as Principal Ann Moore asked the audience to stand and welcome the Robert Service School Grad Class of 2013.

They entered to the opening four-part harmony and blistering guitar riff of Kansas’ 1977 hit single, “Carry on My Wayward Son”. Was it appropriate for a class of six young men and two young women?  Were any of them at all “wayward”?  

Still, the song speaks of rising above the noise and confusion and getting a bit of rest after a struggle, not to mention spanning the generations between the graduates and their parents, who were about their age when this song was new. Not a bad sign on a day which town council had earlier proclaimed to be Intergenerational Day in Dawson.

Once the grads had taken the stage everyone stood to sing “O Canada” along with Tracy Nordick, who arrived in full Diamond Tooth Gertie regalia for the event.

Principal Moore led off the speeches, celebrating them as an energetic group with a can-do attitude that should serve them well in the future. She continued with brief positive comments about each of the eight, based on what she had observed during her first year as principal, a combination of teasing and praise, picking out a strong point that each could use to excel in life.

“Families and friends, celebrate this special day and all that it brings,” he continued. “It’s probably going to be a little bit happy, a little bit sad. Your babies have grown up, unfortunately; look at them now. You can play a part in this success because it’s your support that has helped them to get to his stage.

“Graduates, take a little time today to thank your families and friends, because this success that you’ve achieved is shared with them. Let them hug a little longer today. Take the lessons you’ve learned in Dawson City and hold your head high with confidence as you go into the world. You have built a solid reputation here and a foundation that will last forever.

“In closing, I would like to quote Percy Henry, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder, who said this: ‘Listen to the youth, respect their knowledge. They can teach us, too. They will be our future leaders. Show the youth how we live. We need to open our arms to the youth and teach them so that our culture and heritage won’t be lost. We need to listen to them and give the youth hope for the future.'”

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Ed Taylor reminded the grads that “learning never ceases; learning never ends.

“In this community, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We need doctors, we need dentists; if you go on to achieve that you’ll be a millionaire before you are forty.

“Make sure you come home. On behalf of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in council and all the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens, congratulations on this great achievement. Where ever your life’s journey takes you I trust you will never forget you carry the support of your home town, Dawson City.”

School Council Chair Sue Lancaster announced that the council would be providing a graduation day disc full of photos from the day taken by Janice Cliff. She presented a $200 cheque to Axel Reimer in recognition of his excellent achievement in the Applied Skills Area. The award takes into account academics, attitude and application in the trades area in particular.

Mayor Wayne Potoroka began by taking a picture to post later on his Facebook page.

“It doesn’t seem so long ago I was sitting with my high-school peers getting ready to accept my own diploma. I might be a middle-aged man with a family, a job and responsibilities, but there are parts of my high-school experience that I carry with me even today. I cherish those memories (even the bad ones), and I encourage you all to make a point of savoring this important moment.

“Graduation represents a high point in your lives, but for all of us assembled here, it represents a high point for us, too.

“Your parents—especially your parents—your neighbours, your coaches, your teachers, and your friends have enjoyed your successes and watched as you’ve grown and your character developed.

“And while today is reserved for applauding your achievement and what you’ve done, please appreciate how proud we are that you—this talented, decent group of young adults—are a product of our school and our town.

“Many of you will move away for post-secondary education, jobs or a life in a bigger community.

“As you do, I make one request and offer one piece of wisdom: First, the wisdom: I have no doubt some of your dreams will take you around the globe. You might find yourself travelling the world, working a high-profile job in New York or accepting a prestigious academic posting in a Paris university. But wherever you end up, never forget that you will always be the most interesting person there because you’re from Dawson City, Yukon.

“And second, the request: remember this town and what a special place it is. You will learn, like we have, there is no town like it. And while it might be small, there is always room for you here.”

Tracey Nordick leads in the singing of “O Canada”.

MLA Sandy Silver (their former Math teacher) was unable to attend as he was attending meetings in Vancouver, but he sent best wishes and the following bit of advice.

“Everything changes now. Now you really will become yourselves. If you stay true to you, you will gain. Learn from others, yes. Surround yourself with good people, absolutely. But, be yourself. Win, lose or draw, you will never be disappointed with yourself if you stay true to who you are. The person you are today, the person on this stage, has many people to thank for defining himself or herself, but the responsibility for your future lies within only one person. Stay true to that person, maintain your character, use what you’ve been taught by your family, your friends and your teachers. Never strop learning, and grow within your community, wherever that may be.”

Yukon Education was represented by both Deputy Minister Valerie Royle and Regional Superintendent (Area III) Greg Storey.

Royle reiterated those themes of accomplishment, life-long learning and self-determination that had been touched on by others.

Storey advised the grads that one important skill to nurture was what he called a “sense of malarkey”, the ability to have a healthy skepticism about some of the messages that may come ones way in life. This sense, which some refer to as a BS Detector, can prevent a person from making bad decisions, running with the crowd into stupid situations and betraying that sense of self worth that other speakers had mentioned.

“You’ve got to steer yourself and steer your own boat.”

Storey noted that RSS was an exception to the list of schools on his assignment list in that it was one he did not have to visit very often.

“Dawson is a special place. The staff, the principal, the community and the First Nation work together … to provide an education for children, and I’m very proud of this school and the work that this school has done on behalf of the community. This is a tremendously well run school and it has a lot of support from the community.”

Following this he presented the Valedictorians’ Award to joint valedictorians Alicyn Hunter and Jared Stephenson, who tag teamed their way through a touching and humorous class history, celebrating everyone but themselves.

The traditional conclusion to this affair is the mortarboard toss, carried on outside the theatre. It would appear that this year’s group set a new height record.

This year’s graduating class consisted of Francis Bouffard, Alastair Findlay-Brook, Wesley Gillespie, Larissa Hebert, Alicyn Hunter, Waylin Nagano, Axel Riemer and Jared Stephenson.

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