Congratulations to employees at Oshki grad

Posted: June 10th, 2016

June 10 was a special day for four Tikinagan employees who, along with their classmates from the Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute, received diplomas from the Social Service Worker-Native Specialization program.

The two-year program ran from September 2014 and wrapped up in April 2016.

Congratulations to Lee-Anne Besselt (Intake/Investigation worker), Donna Gagnon (Direct Service Supervisor), Elaine Mamakwa (Child Care Worker) and Sarah Nothing-Mekanak (Direct Services Supervisor). Tikinagan's board and management team is proud of you!

Below is a copy of the inspiring valedictorian speech by student Donna Gagnon.


Donna's Speech

First and foremost, I would like to thank the Creator for this beautiful day and for this amazing journey that am I currently on and for being at this special gathering here today.

The reason why I was chosen to be the Valedictorian isn't because I'm better than my fellow classmates, or received the highest mark. The reason being is that we all respected one another and mind you no one could make up their minds who wanted to be the class valedictorian so, since being one of the elders of the group, I decided to take an extra step forward and offer to be the class valedictorian - doing this speech on behalf of all my fellow classmates. By accepting this role, it was truly an honour for me and a dream come true.

I acknowledge all my fellow classmates and all students of Oshki for all the hard efforts and dedication to completing this two-year journey of being in school and being away from the work that we do, our families and our communities. Mind you, it was hard having to leave our families behind for a whole two-week period and dealing with loneliness and just being away from our homes was quite overwhelming at times but with the constant support of our families, children, and grandchildren, and one another, we were able to get through these two years of schooling. Of course, we did this for them - but mainly we did it for ourselves. There were times I said "What did I get myself into?" and felt like quitting, but with the strong support of our families, we were able to keep moving forward. All I could picture was the day of graduating and receiving my diploma. It was a vision I keep envisioning to make it more successful. More importantly, I did it for my family, children and grandchildren because this meant a lot to me. My grandchildren are my incentive to do the best I can. I've also inspired others just as others have inspired myself. I brought my two daughters and my youngest and oldest grandchildren here today. This day was very important to them and they wouldn't miss this special day to see me graduate. My oldest granddaughter was struggling with her schooling but when I started showing her my marks, she was inspired by what I was doing, and at the end of the school year she came up to me to show me her report card with improvements and receiving A's. So we were inspiring one another to do the best we can, because education is important.

Now back to my fellow classmates. There was no one was better than anyone else- we were all equal, we supported one another. We've been through some tough times, fun times, sad times, and crazy times but most importantly we were there for one another. We grew as one and as a family while being away at school and we took care of one another. The other classmates were totally amazing, and it was truly an honour to have met these beautiful and strong women while on this two-year journey. I will never forget them and I only have fond memories that will last a life time.

Now each and every one of us have our work cut out to do as we go back to our communities. Some of the girls are moving on to University, some have relocated and already have gotten better jobs. As for me, I will be counselling right up until I'm in my 70s, 80s or even 90s.

I ain't no spring chick, for I am 52-years-old and it only took me a century to make up my mind on what I wanted to be or where the Creator needs me to be. The moral of the story is it's never too late to go back and get an education and to follow your dreams and goals. Since my children have left the nest, and now having grandchildren, I've done my duties as a mother but I shall continue as a grandmother. It is now time to do something for me and now look at me where I am today, up here standing in front of this podium, wearing this hat and gown and receiving my diploma. Yes, it's a dream come true and truly an honour!

I would also like to take this time to thank the staff and teachers/instructors of Oshki. I can't begin to tell you how amazing they are. There were times I and other students struggled and if we fell the staff was there to pick us up. The support was tremendous. Also, the Cultural room at Oshki was a safe and comfortable place to be when I was exhausted - I have spent many hours crashed out there.

Not only have the instructors taught us. In turn, they've learned off us as well. More importantly they taught us what we needed to know. Also thanks to Tikinagan Child and Family Services for giving me this opportunity to excel and allowing me to leave my duties to attend school, and having to come back to my job. Again, thank you for being my main sponsor Tikinagan. Also, thank you to all the great leadership and dignitaries who are here today and being a part of this wonderful occasion.

Like I've already said, "Education is important. It's never too late for some, and do follow your dreams and dream big for now the doors have opened for bigger and greater opportunities!"

Meegwetch! Thank you!