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Graduation during a pandemic

(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)

The class of 2020 had a grad experience like no other.

After schools in the province shutdown, no one knew what was going to happen to graduation ceremonies or whether they would even have one.

But finally, in early June, after weeks of anticipation, the Kahnawake Education Center (KEC) announced the dates and information for the graduation ceremonies around the community. as well as all the safety measures that would be put in place to protect the students, their families and faculty.

All of the ceremonies in town took place outside, in the parking lot of the schools. And luckily, the weather cooperated, gifting grads with lots of sunshine.

The ceremonies were spread out between June 12 to 17, with Karihwanoron School’s graduation ceremony kicking off the celebration last Friday.

Indian Way School opted for a virtual farewell ceremony for their graduates.

Next up was Kateri School’s grad ceremony, followed by Karonhianónhnha School.

And finally, on Wednesday, it was time for seniors at Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) to walk over and get their diplomas in front of their proud parents and teachers.

During the ceremonies, everyone stayed away from each to follow social distancing measures. Many people wore masks; some wore gloves. Parents sat near their cars to watch their children receive their diplomas and take pictures. Some decorated their vehicles with balloons, signs and banners to celebrate their children’s achievements and hard work.

“I thought the ceremony went really well,” said Tehonwatase Deer, who graduated from KSS. “And it was nice seeing everyone at the school again.”

Deer also said he never doubted that he and his classmates would get a graduation ceremony and said that the only question was when it would happen.

“I don’t know if it makes it special because of COVID-19, but definitely the 2020 graduation will always be remembered,” said Deer.

The high school graduate had a parade in town with a few friends and family after the ceremony at KSS, which he called a lot of fun.

“I thought the ceremony was beautiful!” said proud dad Craig Delisle about his daughter Ietiohkwiiostha’s Grade 6 graduation ceremony at Karonhianónhnha.

“I found out about the ceremony about one week before it took place. She was super excited and nervous when she found out that she’d be getting some kind of grad ceremony.”

Delisle said it took a lot of last-minute preparation by his mom and two older daughters who did the beadwork for her outfit.

“When I saw her walking out, I was a bit emotional and very proud at the same time and very happy that she got to experience some sort of graduation ceremony. We didn’t have a celebration that day, but are having a family BBQ this Friday (today) for her,” said Delisle.

Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, whose daughter Tekaweientehtáhkwen Diabo also graduated from Karonhianónhnha, found the ceremony short and sweet.

“I had her ribbon outfit made just in case, but we had to rush to find moccasins and beaded items to wear. We’re both working from home, and I’m a full-time PhD student. I felt bad because there was no way I could bead her anything in time,” said Whitebean.

Whitebean added her daughter was happy to have a ceremony rather than nothing at all, but was still disappointed overall that they couldn’t have a real grad ceremony.

“It was bittersweet to see her walk. On the one hand, we were thankful that the grads were acknowledged and that the school staff put this together,” she said.

“On the other hand, we’re sad for the kids because they lost out on their end of year trip and my daughter said being the eldest in the school was something she looked forward to for years.

“We wish her grandparents could have been there, but we’re proud of her and thankful that all of the kids safely made it to grad,” she said.

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