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SJF graduates take the stage
Convocating class includes 14 at-risk students; graduates look toward next chapter

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Students at Sir John Franklin High School celebrated a graduating class of 115 youth during this year's annual convocation ceremony at the Multiplex Arena.

NNSL photograph

Luke Lingard, left, Ally MacInnis and Melissa MacLellan celebrate fellow Sir John Franklin High School graduates as they watch their peers cross the stage to receive their diplomas on Thursday at the Multiplex. - Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

Graduates, who were dressed in blue caps and gowns, were honoured Thursday as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas to the applause of teachers, family and friends.

"Graduating is no easy feat," said valedictorian Sai Kottagajula as he addressed the graduating class of 2017.

Kottagajula, who is originally from India, arrived at the high school in 2015 and described his time there as having an "enormous" impact on him.

Despite the many challenges he and his peers faced along the way, he said they made great memories together - from pep rallies and spirit days to supporting student bake sales.

But they could not have succeeded alone, said Kottagajula, extending thanks to his teachers.

"They never gave up on us, no matter how easy it would have been," he said. "We are a product of their efforts."

Now, students are ready to take their "next step," he said.

According to principal Dean MacInnis, the new graduates are headed in many different directions.

While some are heading off to university in the fall, others are travelling, going on exchange or coming back to high school to upgrade their credits.

Some have already started apprenticeships, said MacInnis, who described this year's graduates as high achieving, motivated and driven youth.

Fourteen at-risk students who received support from the school's guidance team also walked across the stage with their peers this year, according to MacInnis.

"Some of them were pretty pumped, to be honest, that they were going to finish," he said.

He added some students will return to school next year to upgrade their courses and get help transitioning to programs or jobs outside of school.

"Just because they've reached graduation doesn't mean their plan is complete," MacInnis said.

"Even if they do come back, at least they know they've reached a goal and they feel good about it. So their next goal's got to hit another level."

Students also received well-wishes and speeches of congratulations from Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck; Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses; and the chair of Yellowknife Education District No. 1, John Stephenson.

Students took part in a formal event following the convocation ceremony, where they delivered speeches to teachers and parents and danced the night away before indulging in food and activities at the dry grad, MacInnis said.

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