Sheshatshiu Innu School is celebrating some of its highest graduation numbers to date — and the feeling of momentum and positivity is one that's being felt by more than just the 24 graduating students.
Kanani Davis, CEO of Mamu Tshishkutamashutau-Innu Education, told CBC's Labrador Morning that she's been getting a lot of positive feedback from parents seeing their children graduating and applying to universities and colleges — and from more than just families of the students.
"It's [been] positive, positive feedback from the community and the leadership," said Davis, who hopes it will encourage more students to finish high school.
"Young students seeing their brothers and sisters graduate and [the] community and the school and the leadership acknowledging the students, I think, is making a huge impact."
The excitement was contagious on the last day of school as a motorcade of vehicles, some decorated in balloons, drove around the community, with drivers honking their horns and celebrating the accomplishments of the graduating class.
This year's graduation celebrations have been particularly special for Davis, since her daughter, Shaia Davis and nephew, Justin Penashue, are part of the graduating class.
"[Shaia] has worked so hard.… I'm really happy that she's decided to pursue post-secondary education and I'm excited. And also, at the same time, a bit sad because she'll be going off," said Davis.
In the fall, Shaia will be attending Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., to pursue a bachelor's degree in English language arts.
"It's going to be very nerve-racking but I'm also very excited," said Shaia. "Everyone's feeling a little bit emotional today — I shed a few tears. All of my family, they're also all very emotional, but who can blame them?"
Justin Penashue is on a wait-list to become a powerline technician, because he plans to stay in Labrador.
"Oh yeah, can't leave the family," he said.
Shtashin Penashue, another graduate, will be heading to Memorial University in the fall to pursue nursing and is sad to be leaving her home at such a young age.
"I wanted to go into nursing because my grandmother was a midwife and I want to be like her," she said.
"She was a strong woman. She's always been someone I looked up to growing up and when she passed away in 2019, I think I realized then how much she meant to me."
'Education is improving'
Principal Greg Quilty, who has been at the school since it opened in 2009, said the number of graduates has been steadily increasing since then.
"It has been a successful year and a lot of parents were pleased to see the high numbers.… It shows that education is improving in the community," said Quilty.
For Quilty, and many other teachers, the students are almost like their own children.
"[Teachers] put in the extra effort to make sure the students know that they're cared about and that they have a place in our school," Quilty said.
Encouraging students to stay in school goes beyond the work that teachers do, Davis said, and that encouragement needs to come from parents as well.
"Having parents and the community leadership and even the teachers encouraging our students to keep going and making our school a positive place to come and be inviting for students and parents … it gives other students incentive to keep going," she said.