David Jr. (D.J.) Watsko has attained his high school diploma. Eventually, he’d like to earn his wings.

The sole graduate from Grise Fiord’s Umimmak School this year, Watsko is captivated by thoughts of becoming a pilot.

“It has been a thing for a while. I like views of wherever the plane takes me when I’m leaving this community,” he said. “I think I have great patience for just having an office in the sky. I like travelling, a lot. It really excites me. I think I would like to fly commercial airlines, maybe something like Canadian North, or Air Canada.”

He has a flight school in Ontario in mind as a future education destination, but his next stop may be with Nunavut Arctic College’s environmental technology program, as he has submitted an application there. He said he’d like to learn more about the environment that he’ll be flying in, and he’s also interested in learning about the engineering and physics of aircraft and flight.

Unlike graduates in many other Nunavut communities, Watsko made it to the stage all by himself.

“I felt a little lonely being the only graduate,” he admitted.

Nevertheless, the June 4 ceremony at the school was enjoyable, even though he generally prefers not to be the centre of attention.

“But it felt nice, I’m more of a person to be in the background but the attention was nice,” he said, adding that close to 30 people were in attendance. “I sure was happy to see my parents and grandparents there to watch me finish my last year in school.

“I didn’t (write) a speech before the ceremony because I didn’t expect so much people, but then I made one up on the spot, basically saying thank you to all the teachers and my friends and family.”

Quttiktuq MLA David Akeeagok made a statement in the legislative assembly on June 7 recognizing Watsko for his achievement.

“In Grise Fiord we have a local belief that as a smaller community, we are all responsible for raising our children, and whenever our children graduate, it becomes a very large local gathering,” said Akeeagok. “Our children are to be celebrated in any big occasions such as graduating. The doors of opportunities are opening at all levels. I congratulate the graduate and the family.”

Watsko’s educational experience wasn’t all smooth sailing. He said he found English, math and science to be “quite a challenge,” but he said he learned many great things in those classes.

“I didn’t really have doubts about graduating. The only thing that really scared me was the exam. My studies were all good, my marks were good. It was my last year and I learned a lot from it. I overcame a lot of academic struggles, and here I am now,” he said.

He said he’s going to spend the summer working with Qulliq Energy Corporation as a labourer, moving things, cleaning up things.

He’s also going to try to squeeze in some time to go hunting and make some more memories with his friends.

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