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‘Proudest father in the world’ watches two children graduate high school at once

Graduating from Cambridge Bay’s Kiilinik High School was something of a family affair for Annica Otokiak.
Brother and sister Paiden and Annica Otokiak pose for a photo after graduating from Cambridge Bay’s Kiilinik High School in June. The pair were the last of five Otokiak siblings to finish high school, according to their father Andre. Photo courtesy of Andre Akana Otokiak

Graduating from Cambridge Bay’s Kiilinik High School was something of a family affair for Annica Otokiak.

Not only were there several members of her family in attendance for the ceremony, but she shared the graduation stage with her sibling, Paiden.

“My brother and I graduated at the same time,” she said. “It felt really cool and sentimental for me at the same time.

“I think we were the only siblings to graduate together in a long time.”

Kiilinik’s graduation ceremony occurred on June 10. The theme of the ceremony was spring, and the school was decorated with plants and artwork to commemorate the occasion.

“There was a 15-foot long banner for us graduates made by the little kids at the Kullik School,” said Annica. “There was about 150 to 200 people there.”

Annica’s father, Andre Akana Otokiak, was one of those in attendance for the ceremony.

Annica and Paiden are the youngest of his five children, and the last two to graduate from high school.

“I am the proudest father in the world to have watched my children graduate and walk down their graduating ceremony,” he said.

Annica had a great time with her family and friends at her graduation ceremony, and did not have any difficulty picking out the highlight of the celebrations.

“My favourite part was throwing up my hat at the end,” she said.

Of course, there are things she will recall fondly about her time in high school.

“I will miss seeing my friends everyday, and my teachers,” she said. “I’ll miss my socials class, because that was my favourite subject – and mostly because of my teacher.”

With her diploma attained, Annica now plans to take a year off to work and save money to attend college for culinary arts.

“I love to cook and bake,” she said. “My goal is to one day open my own little bakery.”

The new graduate, who enjoys playing sports like soccer, hockey and table tennis in her free time, admits she’s a bit daunted by the challenges of the real world, but after four years of high school, she’s confident she will find her way eventually.

“Honestly, I feel prepared for little things like going grocery shopping, or having to pay for my things, but I don’t think I’m prepared for the next chapter.

“I still feel like I’m 13 and need help with everything, but I’ll get there,” she laughed.

The Otokiak siblings are two of 286 graduates in Nunavut this year — close to a record number for the territory.

“The Department of Education is proud of its graduates,” said Rebecca Hainnu, deputy minister of the Department of Education. “This year we have nearly the highest number of graduates ever.

“We will continue to strive to provide a solid bilingual education, that is based in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and societal values with modern skill sets. Since high school courses started being delivered in communities, the graduation rates have steadily increased.”

About the Author: Tom Taylor

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