Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) valedictorian Kobe Potan-Benson spoke about how he and the other students persevered through the COVID-19 global pandemic during his valedictorian address at the KiHS virtual 2020 graduation ceremony.
“Nobody would have expected that we would finish our high school career during a global pandemic — I was expecting the usual grand graduation ceremony in Thunder Bay and a celebration within the community, however all of that is not possible today,” Potan-Benson says. “We are thankful for our virtual graduation. At first I was angry but after I thought about the opportunities that would open to me after graduating high school I persisted and here I am today.
All the graduates here are all very resilient and determined.”
Potan-Benson says he attended high school in Thunder Bay and Hamilton but preferred learning at KiHS.
“KiHS has supported me well in my learning since they have a program that is friendly and supportive for the students of varying needs,” Potan-Benson says. “One important thing I learned from the last few years in high school is that anyone can graduate from high school, but he or she must be willing to communicate with the mentor and online teachers and ask for help when needed.”
KiHS celebrated the achievements of 28 graduates during the May 20 virtual graduation ceremony, which is posted online at: www.facebook.com/keewaytinookihs.
“We’ve had an online graduation every year since we had our first graduate in 2010 — the only difference is that usually we also have celebrations in each community classroom and we stream it in each of the community classrooms rather than just at home,” says Angela Batsford, principal at KiHS. “So the students would gather in their community classrooms to have graduation and it would be done online but now they just did the online part at home. We’re pros at it now, it was our best year this year.”
The virtual graduation included pre-ceremony entertainment by Nick Sherman; land acknowledgement by Kathleen Koostachin, opening prayer by Deputy Grand Chief Walter Naveau, welcome by Batsford, congratulations from dignitaries such as Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox, Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa and Kenora MP Eric Melillo, virtual procession with the graduates, award presentations, diploma presentations, keynote address from Jacky Chan, congratulations from the mentors and closing remarks by Batsford.
“Two-thirds of our graduates completed their requirements during COVID-19,” Batsford says. “The last eight weeks of class the classrooms were shut down and they were still able to earn their credits, so I think that shows they are pretty resilient.”
Albee Eisbrenner, teacher and grad coach at KiHS, says it “was great” to have Naveau for the opening prayer, noting he is the father of one of the graduates.
“He welcomed us in the right way and it was a very positive message all around,” Eisbrenner says. “We were so lucky to have all these wonderful presenters — everyone wanted to kind of rally together and support the graduates through this tough time.”
Eisbrenner says Chan, land-based educator and martial arts instructor at Seventh Fire Secondary School in Thunder Bay, made a video presentation for the virtual graduation while travelling across southeast Asia by motorcycle.
“I think that was well received,” Eisbrenner says. “I heard a lot of positive things from Jacky Chan’s message.”
The KiHS graduates included: Virginia Hunter, Evelyn Stoney, Charmaine Thomas, Ricci Joy Bell Meawasige, Nathaniel Thompson, Michael Desilva, Divona Thompson, Max Worme-Naveau, Leiland Wheesk, Tiffany Oshineegish,
Mariah Wabasse, Katie Sofea, Christine Kakegajumick, Alisha Keeash-Adams, Ethan Williams, Amber Winters, Jayson Winters, Cheryssa McKay, Jerome Rody, Laina Jacob, Dylan Anderson, Reina Boyce, Cassandra Shewaybick, Cordelia Quisses, Hunter Spence, Tyreek Rae and Maxine Keesic.