'We finally did it': Cape Dorset celebrates graduation 1 year late

It took an extra year to get there, but high school grads from Peter Pitseolak school in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, finally had their graduation ceremony last week.

Seven students — who were just starting Grade 12 when a fire ravaged the community's only high school — spent the rest of the year taking classes in the elementary school, and graduated last spring. The four girls and three boys were given their diplomas, but at the time, a ceremony just wasn't possible.

"There was too much happening in the community," said Roy Cole, principal of the high school.

"Between the jigs and reels of everything and trying to get everything under control and trying to get things straightened out, one thing led to another... to the point that they weren't able to have their graduation last year."

Finally last Saturday, the students donned their caps and gowns, and had the ceremony they'd been waiting for.

"It was overwhelming," said graduate Natasha Reid.

"It was very beautiful to have the graduation finally there, at that moment."

A tribute to their school

On graduation day the students decided to head to the site of their old school for a photo shoot.

"When we got our pictures taken, it was phenomenal," Reid said.

"When we stood on the school grounds, it was really nice to actually tribute the old school somehow.

"We all decided to have a powerful picture with our arms linked. And that feeling was like, we finally did it, we accomplished something that people thought we wouldn't."

Reid said their graduation ceremony was like any other, but had more meaning for the displaced students.

"The theme of it was 'We Will Rise' because the school has been burned down, and from that we all had a loss. Most of us had no hope but we just stuck through it."

'Everybody is so proud of them'

Principal Cole said the event brought the whole community together.

"These are kids who graduated in the face of adversity," he said. "Finally they made it…  Everybody is so proud of them."

Reid said she's proud of herself and what her fellow grads achieved.

"When I saw my graduates ahead of me, I felt so proud of them. I don't think any of them have noticed how strong and smart they are."

Reid is still living in Cape Dorset but hopes to go to university in the future.