Andy’s students of the Northern Building Maintenance Program graduated. A feast to honour the graduates was held at the arena. The Chief, school commissioner and coordinator of adult educational services for the Cree school board were invited guests.
Graduation is traditionally held a few weeks after the students have finished their course. By that time, the teachers have finished their contract. The students were very firm.
“If Andy’s not there, we don’t want a graduation.” They had their way and the graduation took place after the last day of class.
The students wore gowns and traditional hats and walked up the aisle to the stage with an escort of their own choosing. One graduate held a tiny infant, and another was escorted by his mother.
It was a touching ceremony. The most poignant moment was when a student – a very large man – grabbed Andy and enveloped him in a great bear hug when he was presented with his certificate and statue. I noticed his tears. Soon after, other students and family members began tearing up.
Until now, I wouldn’t have understood how this tremendous achievement, which is an expected and ordinary one for most in the south, could so touch an entire community.