The co-valedictorians for John Arnalukjuak School’s graduation hope to inspire future generations of Arviatmiut now that they have finished high school.

Mae Manik and Phil Kinak, both of whom are 17 years old, were both chosen to give a speech as valedictorians at the school’s ceremony on June 12.

The two students ended up working together to craft the speech with Manik delivering it English and Kinak giving it Inuktitut.

“We wanted to let the other graduates know they could do anything they set their mind to,” Manik told Kivalliq News.

Both students said they faced additional challenges this school year because of the lockdown that Arviat experienced due to COVID-19.

“It was pretty hard because we had to do some of our classes online,” Manik said. “And it was way different when we got back because we had to follow these procedures.”

Manik received the highest grade in English Language Arts. Kinak ended up winning the Governor General’s Award for having the highest overall average in his class.

Now that she has graduated, Manik is set on going to the University of Manitoba to study child psychology.

“I think Nunavut needs more Inuit mental health care workers. Living in Nunavut, I’ve seen people have the same pattern with addiction, mostly in children. I’m going to focus on that and try and make a change,” she said.

Kinak said he plans to take a few years to spend some time with family in Arviat. But he hopes to eventually go to either college or university so he can one day become a gym teacher.

Like Manik, Kinak said he wants to help the youth of his community.

“I think Arviat needs change in a lot of ways,” he said. “For me it’s mostly for the kids. So our future generations could be better.”

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