Nunavut Arctic College’s Rankin Inlet campus celebrated two years’ worth of graduates at special back-to-back ceremonies last week.

After the pandemic cancelled last year’s celebration for the 2020 grads, the college decided to invite them back for a ceremony with the current cohort on June 7.

The college also extended an invitation to local residents who completed programs based in Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay.

Matthew Ayres, vice-president of the college’s Kivalliq campus, said it was fitting that both years graduated together as they both had to overcome significant challenges to adapt during the pandemic.

“It shows great perseverance on the part of our students to be able to not only succeed, but excel, when facing a blended version of online and in-person delivery and jurisdictions due to public health measures,” he said. “Post-secondary education usually involves lots of teamwork and presentations, so our students had to come to terms with a new kind of learning.”

There were a total of 25 grads across the two years in courses including social work, teaching, management studies, as well as a variety of skilled trades.

Due to public health measures, the campus had to hold to separate back-to-back ceremonies.

The two groups spent the Sunday afternoon before the graduation decorating the hall.

“That was an impromptu celebration where they all came together to decorate the venue. I was very proud of that teamwork and to see everyone get together for a common goal that had been missing all year,” said Ayres.

In addition to several students ending up on honour roll, several bursaries were handed out.

Gail Angootealuk, who earned a management studies certificate in 2020 and a diploma this year, won both the Lester Landau Financial Award for the highest grade in accounting and the Illagiikut Limited Award for the highest academic standing in both the certificate and diploma management studies programs.

“Gail actually cleaned up,” said Ayres.

Another notable graduate is Nealson Mautaritnaak, who won the Perseverance Award in Trades, sponsored by Colleen and Sandy Napier, in addition to making honour roll.

“I wasn’t expecting to get the perseverance award and honour roll,” said Mautaritnaak. “There were a few students that were really good in the pre-apprentice classes as well. I was pushing myself really hard at the time because I knew how talented they were. I always kept in mind what my dad told me: he said, ‘Innikuluk, do the best you can in everything you do.’”

The last two years of school have been challenging, Mautaritnaak admitted. When the pandemic first hit, he returned home to study remotely in Baker Lake. He eventually returned to Rankin Inlet to live with his girlfriend.

“We are currently staying at my girlfriend’s parent’s place,” he said.

Mautaritnaak’s hard work has paid off. Just a week after finishing the final class of his housing maintainer diploma in early May, Mautaritnaak was offered a summer student position at Sakku Properties.

“I’m actually doing a job in my field of trades, which is housing maintainer,” he said.

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