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Young mother wins academic medal
Kelsey Apsaktaun receives Governor General's award from Governor General himself

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finishing high school was one of Kelsey Apsaktaun's dreams, but motherhood and other obstacles made it difficult.

NNSL photo/graphic

Gov. Gen. David Johnston, left, hands Kelsey Apsaktaun the Governor General's Award for Academic Excellence during his recent visit to Kugaaruk School. The medals are presented annually to each school's graduating student with the highest average. Apsaktaun is with her five-year-old son Jarome. - photo courtesy of Michael Bartley

She didn't give up, and in May she not only graduated from Kugaaruk School, she did so with the highest academic average in her class, earning her the Governor General's academic medal.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston presented her with the bronze medal and certificate when he visited Kugaaruk on Aug. 19 as part of his official tour of Nunavut. The annual recognition is given to the student graduating with the highest average in his or her high school.

Apsaktaun, 24, said she felt "very special" receiving the award from the hands of the Governor General himself as the certificate and medal are usually mailed out.

"I felt very recognized, coming from a hard past in high school," she said. "It was hard for me to stay in school. I had a child when I was 19 and I didn't have school for three or four years. I just decided I had to do it for my son and my family and myself, especially for myself, so I went back to school. I reached my dreams; I reached my goals."

As she didn't know she was receiving the recognition, she added she was really surprised when she got it.

Kugaaruk School Principal Michael Bartley praised Apsaktaun.

"This student was not just outstanding with her studies and marks, but also as a leader and role model for others. She is inspirational. She is a wonderful human being and has a bright future," Bartley said he told the audience before Apsaktaun received the award.

Born and raised in Kugaaruk, Apsaktaun is currently looking for a job and is considering attending college in a few years. Her five-year-old son Jarome just started kindergarten.

She said she tells him every morning as he wakes up the importance of attending school.

"He likes school. He likes to socialize," said Apsaktaun.

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