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Community high schools paving the way to higher education

Kirsten Murphy
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 07/01) - David Qayaq rubs his tired eyes and stares at a list of scientific terms.

The 19-year-old Clyde River high school graduate breezed through Grade 12.

Nunavut Arctic College's Health Career Access program has not been so easy.

Not just the school work, but adjusting to life away from home has also been tough.

Since arriving in Iqaluit, Qayaq misses friends, family and country food. At the same time, he knows he's content.

"I'm a scholar, not a hunter," he said, laughing at his own revelation.

Qayaq dreams of becoming a doctor. He was class valedictorian at Quluaq school in 2000 and received the Governor General's award for academic achievement.

Joining him at the college is Clyde River classmate Jennifer Jaypoody.

Unlike 10-15 years ago when students left home to attend high school, Qayaq and Jaypoody graduated from their community high school. Albeit a small school, Qayaq said staying at home kept him in school.

Quluaq school co-principal Jukeepa Hainnu remembers Qayaq as a bright student who preferred hockey games to school dances.

"I'm one of the people who was not able to go away to school so I see community having schools as extremely important," she said.

More high schools mean more high school diplomas and better jobs for Nunavut's young people, she said.

The multi-million dollar budgets building high schools in the last 10 years are worth every penny, Education Minister Peter Kilabuk told the legislature earlier this year.

In 1990 there were four high schools in Nunavut. Today there are more than 20.

Around Nunavut, 135 students graduated from high school in 2000, more than double the number of graduates three years ago.

"Often we hear Inuit are not graduating from high school. This is not the case. In the last two years, Inuit have made up over 80 per cent of the graduates," Kilabuk said.

"Young people today recognize that Nunavut will provide opportunities not previously available."

Qayaq dabbled with the idea of dropping out of high school. His family would not let history repeat itself.

"My mom had to stop going to school and she wanted me to continue," he said.

While he decides his academic future, Qayaq looks forward to going home for the summer.

"It's the best place in the world. There is no place like home," he said.