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First Savanna Pikuyak Scholarship granted to classmate

Joni Karoo receives first award of $5,000 in memory of slain Sanirijak student to help with nursing studies
Sheba and David Pikuyak, Savanna Pikuyak’s parents, give a powerful bilingual speech at the ceremony announcing the first recipient of a scholarship in their late daughter’s name. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

The recipient of the first scholarship in memory of Savanna Pikuyak was announced late last month at the legislative assembly.

Joni Karoo, who’s studying pre-nursing at Nunavut Arctic College, will receive the $5,000 award that was created by the territorial government in memory of the student from Sanirijak who was killed shortly after moving to Ottawa to attend Algonquin College.

Karoo had studied with Pikuyak and said she was honoured to carry on her friend’s memory by pursuing a career in nursing.

Premier P.J. Akeeagok was on hand for the ceremony and said it was poignant.

“Our legislative assembly saw an emotion-filled tribute today,” he said.

Health Minister John Main opened up proceedings by paying tribute to Pikuyak and her family.

“Today, I’m happy (and) thankful to honour the memory of Savanna Pikuyak by presenting this annual scholarship in her name,” he said. “I welcome Savanna’s parents, family and friends here today and extend my deepest sympathy for their tragic and senseless loss.

“She was a person who dedicated her life to helping others and I’m happy to see others following her leadership. Finally, I want to congratulate Joni Karoo, who’s studying pre-nursing at Nunavut Arctic College, for being the first recipient of the Savanna Pikuyak scholarship. I hope many, many, many more young Inuit follow in your footsteps and honour the memory of Savanna.”

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk said Pikuyak was a very open and kind person and he hopes more young people will follow in her footsteps.

“I just want to send a message to the young people: don’t stop pursuing your career because this will make us Nunavummiut better to make it work. Don’t stop pursuing and believing in your dream. Keep at it and never stop.”

In receiving the scholarship, Karoo remembered her former classmate as someone who was kind, gentle and respectful.

”Savanna was my classmate from 2019 to 2020,” she said. “What I remember of her as a performer and a classmate is probably how kind, gentle and respectful she was. The determination Savanna had inspires me and motivates me to carry on my education in the health sector. Thanks to Savanna, my passion to complete the pre-health program grows stronger. Receiving the Savanna Pikuyak scholarship means so much to me, and in a way, it is helping me heal.”