Graduating GidGalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School students celebrated with a drive-in ceremony on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at the school field. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

VIDEO: Haida Gwaii high school grads celebrate with drive-in ceremony, parade

Hats off to the GidGalang Kuuyas Naay, Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay and distributed learning students

Graduating GidGalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School students were able to celebrate their accomplishments on Saturday (June 20) with COVID-19 safety plans in place.

Principal Deavlan Bradley told the Observer staff and volunteers worked hard to make a drive-in ceremony happen at the school soccer field, with loved ones parking on the grass to watch from a distance as the graduates paraded down a plywood runway and posed under the arch to songs of their choice as well as honking from the audience. Joined by graduating distributed learning student Nathan Brooks, the class of 2020 then took their seats in chairs spaced six feet apart, set up in rows on a borrowed trailer and a riser.

“I do want to recognize that these are weird times, possibly darker than we’d anticipated when I was talking to last year’s graduates,” Bradley said during his speech to the graduates. “It’s important to remember that our graduates today were born in the wake of 9/11 and they graduate in the throws of a global pandemic, a highly-charged political and social environment, and a degree of uncertainty about the future that I don’t think any graduate has ever had to deal with as they look forward to post-secondary school, travel, adventure, work, career, to connecting with new people as well as reinvesting in family and friends. I recognize it has been stressful. It’s been draining and it looks like the drain is going to go on a little bit longer.

“For those of you that are inspired and frustrated over the current movements demanding systemic change, know that the past month is not the first time we’ve seen rioting over racial oppression. For those of you anxious about getting sick or fearing for loved ones, know that this is not the first time we’ve experienced plague. For those of you that wonder over the choices that certain world leaders make, know that we have seen instability and poor leadership before.”

Despite everything, he said, the graduates had made it through and they are the hope he sees for the future.

“You did it, you’re here and it’s a beautiful day, and you all look beautiful.”

The valedictorians took the stage to give their speech, with Maggie Borrowman noting the class had “seen a lot in these last five years.”

“We’ve come together when tragic events unfold and through it all we’ve strengthened our voices and our spirits,” Borrowman said.

“On the week of March 12 we walked out the doors having no idea we’d never return as students. The last months of our senior year were completely uprooted by a global pandemic.”

Despite mourning disappointments, such as having to cancel their graduation trip, Borrowman said the class had a lot to be thankful for.

“We are grateful that our island communities are safe and that we have had time to reflect and think, to be home with our families. As we get ready to step out into the new normal, we will do so with confidence and courage.

“We know that we are the leaders of the future. We know that Black Lives Matter, climate change matters, and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women matter, and all injustices of the world need to be addressed. We are up for the challenge, we are resilient and we are ready to tackle anything,” she said.

“So let’s wash our hands, put on our face masks and change the world.”

Bradley told the Observer the class had fundraised $10,000, in part for their graduation trip. The trip had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but the students were still able to purchase hoodies and commission Haida artist Robert Cross to make custom bracelets.

Later in the ceremony, Bradley did some light roasting of the students at their request, touching on truancy, tardiness, sass and spelling mistakes. He then passed out the diplomas and awards from the Gwaii Trust Society, as well as several bursaries supplied by the Williams family in memory of Kaiya, who died of cancer.

Graduating Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary School students celebrated in their school field on Sunday, June 21, 2020, followed by a parade through Masset and Old Massett. (Graduating Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay/Submitted photos)

The next day (June 21), graduating Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary School students also celebrated in their school field, followed by a parade.

Homes and businesses were asked to decorate with balloons, posters, signs and ribbons — “anything to show the class of 2020 that they are being celebrated.”

“The rain held off for our graduation,” vice principal Christine Cunningham told the Observer. “Lovely ceremony followed by a parade through Masset and Old Massett.”

2020 GidGalang Kuuyas Naay graduates: Maggie Borrowman; Camellia Brennan; Melva Collinson-Young; Dustin Davidson; Madison Gaspar; Teniel Houston; Megan Ives; Tyson Jones; Taylor Lund; Tiahna Masch; Bailey McDonald; Tasharra Moore; Tia Nicol; Jacey Pollard; Trey Rorick; Jordyn Sankey; Dawson Sterritt; Chayla Williams; Olivia Wilson.

2020 Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay graduates: Holly Bell; Kendal Bielby; Devan Boyko; Angel Brown; Sierra Brown-Wesley; Clayton Marks; Solas Reynolds; Calvin Sampare; Schon Sjolund; Amanda Waldorf; Nathaniel White; Gulkihlgad Yakujanaas.

2020 distributed learning graduates: Leah Walker; Madison Brown; Teresa Russ; Nathan Brooks.

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