Teachers from the Chief Sunrise Education Centre, which Fabian attended, and various other community members gathered to celebrate an occasion that only comes along every few years.On Dec. 14 at the Chief Lamalice Complex on the Hay River Reserve, recent graduate Judith Fabian had a lavish ceremony all to herself.
Nineteen-year-old Fabian is the school’s first graduate since Savannah Fabian in 2008.
“I’m really happy,” she said, adding she had no immediate plans beyond those of waiting for her infant daughter to go to preschool.
Sitting next to her at the main table was her mother, Paula, beaming with pride. She had driven up from Alberta for the ceremony.
“I’m very proud of my daughters,” she said, referring to Judith’s twin sister Jillian. “I’ve done everything I can to try and instil the thought of finishing her education. It’s very important because everything is changing nowadays and everybody needs their education. I’m just thrilled to be here.”
The school’s principal, Ian Patterson, said Fabian is a role model for younger students.
“As a community, we have to recognize what Judith and her family have accomplished,” he said. “We’ve been working hard with the DEA and the school board to figure out how we can have more of these celebrations.”
South Slave Divisional Education Council assistant superintendent Brent Kaulback, a former long-time principal of the school, also attended the ceremony.
Kaulback said a graduation is significant for a school that has only had high school programming for the past 10 years.
“It’s a small community and, any time you have a student coming through the program, it’s a big occasion,” he said. “It’s important to have community-based high schools. It gives students on the reserve a place to call their own. It’s a school that has a strong cultural component, which is really important.”
Chief Sunrise Education Centre implemented a junior high program in July 2000, offering Grades 7 to 10, and began offering Grades 11 and 12 soon after.
Christie McArthur and Rosemary Buggins were the first Grade 12 graduates in 2004.
Shirley Lamalice, chair of the K’atlodeeche First Nation District Education Authority and someone who has watched Fabian grow throughout the years, said it was like watching her own daughter graduate.
“It’s nice to see that incentive for younger students again,” she said. “We would love to see more support and involvement from parents to increase the number of graduates.”
Chief Roy Fabian emphasized the broader options in life Fabian has given herself by graduating.
The chief looked at the younger children in attendance and gave them an important message for the future.
“The last time we did this was a few years ago and these are too far in between,” he said. “It’s so important to get your Grade 12 education. I worry about the community sometimes because leadership is getting on in age. Young people need to gain capacity for themselves.”
— Myles Dolphin