Creating magic in Chester

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Students at Victor Sammutok School (VSS) are never asked to pay a price for living in a small community and that includes never missing a sliver of magic when high school graduation rolls around in Chesterfield Inlet.

There’s no mistaking the look of pride on Phillipa Aggark’s face as Edwin Aggark adds a number of academic awards to his high school graduation diploma at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet this past month. photo courtesy of Glen Brocklebank

VSS has five graduates in its class of 2017: Edwin Aggark, Igalaaq Putulik, Louie Kukkiak, Roxy Sammurtok and Ulujuk Kadluk.

Grad ceremony and prom organizer Ana Leishman said the entire community sincerely appreciates the effort put into making the ceremony and prom special every year.

She said staff members spend a week decorating the gym for graduation, and, when it’s finished, it is completely unrecognizable.

“I know they basically do the same thing in Rankin Inlet, but I’m going to boast a little bit and say what we create here is awesome,” said Leishman, her voice growing stronger, more focused and increasingly excited as she talks about the ceremony and prom.

“All the graduates come and help, but it was a little different this year because we had some graduates who were doing some of the prospecting work near Rankin.

“One of the graduates was there with me every day, staff members were coming in and out, and some of their friends would help me in the gym at night and we, basically, just hammered it out.”

The previous year’s ceremony saw the venue decorated with photos taken in the community of the Northern Lights printed onto big banners running around the gym. This year it was a picture of a sunset that someone in the community took.

Leishman said because they’re a small school in a small community, they customize the event for the kids to try and make everything as personal as they can.

She said each graduate gets to give a speech on who they want to thank and how much it took to get there and, if they want, they can also pass along any advice they may have for younger students.

“We have another part in the ceremony that sees the students who are graduating give a lapel-style flower to people they want to thank for helping them get to graduation,” she said.

“That’s a really important part of our ceremony, when they go into the audience and give flowers to their parents, friends and teachers – whoever they feel kind of helped push them to that day.

“It’s a very special moment and, overall, I think we kick butt with our ceremony. The presenting of the flowers, and the speeches, too, are really, really big moments for the kids, and the community really looks forward to them.”