Graduates from Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet all had unique stories to tell in the leadup to their achievement.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” said Tracy Ittinuar, one of the grads, during a dress rehearsal before the event.
“I’m happy for each and every one of the graduates. We climbed mountains. We didn’t quit. We didn’t give up.”
Everyone had their reasons for persevering, she added, whether it be family, spouses, babies or otherwise. Hers was her younger sister.
“I want to be her role model and I want her to follow in my steps because she’s my world and I know she will make it one day,” said Ittinuar.
Chenille Ayaruak was thinking similarly.
“My siblings really look up to me,” she said. “If I were to not finish school, they would probably do the same thing.”
She said she never thought she would get this far, and she was proud of everyone who made it.
Bailey Green also never thought she’d be a graduate.
“I’m very proud of myself,” said Green. “Even way back 12 years ago as a little kindergartener, I never thought I would graduate. It just felt like a very long journey. I did it alone with my mom and my sister and I never thought I’d get here today.”
Hard work, dedication and putting her heart into the work – not just her brain – were what led her to success, said Green.
Jessica Kanayok, whose graduation was delayed two years because of health issues, was feeling quite cool to finally walk that stage.
“This time I’m not sick at the wrong time, finally,” she said.
For Tanya Ammaklak, she was proud to graduate but sad some of her closest friends weren’t there to see her.
“I want to cry, but I don’t know what to feel or how to express my feelings,” she said earnestly. “I want to laugh at the same time because all of that hard work paid off.”
She had lost two friends to suicide, one in 2019 and another in 2021. That led her down some bad paths, but she made it to the finish line in the end.
“I had a hard time because they really wanted to be part of my graduation,” said Ammaklak, emotionally. “We had been planning this since we were children, but I’m here standing alone. It’s so hard.”