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Students earn High School Equivalency diplomas

Reporter | December 14, 2023 12:00 AM

Last Wednesday night was graduation for the summer and fall High School Equivalency (HSE) class of 2023 at Salish Kootenai College. 

The students were excited, donning their bright purple caps and gowns. Proud parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends were waiting with congratulatory balloons, flowers and cameras.

Since graduation is special, Yamncut started the ceremony with a song.

Brian DuMontier, Salish Kootenai College High School Equivalency instructor, welcomed graduates and guests. Steven Arca, Indigenous Language and Culture Specialist, gave an invocation and also words of encouragement for the graduates. 

“I didn’t go to high school; I didn’t finish that, but I picked it up with a general education diploma. It opens a lot of doors for you,” he told youngsters. 

“You jump into school, you jump into a new job, you jump into different places – vocations or anything you want to do … You have a good tool that opens all these doors. I hope you open a lot of doors in your life,” Arca said. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Just get back up, and keep going.”

He added that he’d just finished two years of school at Salish Kootenai College, and he’ll be turning 60 this month.

Amie Tryon, SKC’s director of Institutional Effectiveness, thanked students for coming and said she had seen them putting in the hours and doing the work. She also noted that the Northwest Area Foundation generously funded the Strengthening Workforce Opportunities Grant, which paid for snacks and meals for students and for the graduation ceremony. 

Tryon thanked parents and family members for being at graduation, babysitting, driving students to class and to study, and for all their support. 

SKC President Dr. Sandra Boham thanked Chris Morigeau, a member of the college Board of Directors, for attending graduation. 

“It’s important for our students to know they are important to all of us. But mostly I’d like to thank parents, significant others, siblings, children, everybody who got to give you hugs at the end of the day when you said, ‘I just can’t go back there; I just can’t do this anymore. It’s so stressful.’” 

“But they hugged you, dusted you off, listened to you, turned you around and sent you back,” she said. 

“We are thankful that you chose to make your journey with us; you’re an important part of Salish Kootenai College,” Boham added. 

She spoke about choices that the students face regarding their next steps, and invited them to attend SKC or choose another path. 

“I wish you all the very best,” Boham said to the graduates. “I know you’re going to go out and do whatever it is that you choose to do because I know you can.”

SKC Director of Admissions Juan Perez presented tribal tuition waivers to Isaac Cordova, Kensley Fisher, Shenoah McCool and Boston Woods. Students not present who also received tuition waivers were Sereina Arroyo, Xavier Buckman and Geraldine Genzel.

“Congratulations, and know we’re here for you and we’d like to see you come through our doors, if that’s your choice,” Perez said.  

DuMontier told students he had not graduated from high school and obtained his GED. Being a cynical young man, he did not feel graduation was a big deal. 

Now, having attended many HSE graduations, “It’s kind of a big deal, it really is,” DuMontier said. “It’s a rite of passage – moving from one part of life to another.” 

“None of you will ever again be a non-completor, a drop-out. You’re beyond that,” DuMontier added. “I’m very proud of all of you.”

In addition to the graduates who received tuition waivers, other recipients of HSE diplomas included Lanie Lammers, Xavian Lee, Alexander “Xanny” Ray, Braxton Allen, Jordan Jurasek, Anjelika Kelley and Renzee Thorne.

    HSE graduate Kenslie Fisher has a smile on her face after receiving her HSE diploma. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
    Graduate Lanie Lammers receives handshakes of congratulations fro dignitaries at summer and fall High School Equivalency graduation. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)