Penticton Indian Band celebrates class of 2020 in a unique way

Dozens gathered to celebrate the Penticton Indian Band graduates in June 2020. (Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Joseph Pierre speaking before the virtual grad ceremony. (Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Rhea Dupuis to the left, Kathy Pierre in the middle, Joseph Pierre to the right. (LJI photo)
Dozens gathered to celebrate the Penticton Indian Band graduates in June 2020. (Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Julianna George picking up her graduation gift at the drive-thru grad. (Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

By Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

Traditional graduation ceremonies were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) education department got creative.

“This year with COVID-19 has been especially different because we haven’t been able to do it in person,” says Rhea Dupuis, the PIB education department principal.

Dupuis and the rest of the team brainstormed ideas and decided to set up the graduation ilke a drive-in movie. They rented a large LED screen, displayed the students’ graduation pictures and played videos of the students talking about their journey as well as sending messages to the future students.

“This year, we’ve had one of the most graduates with 44 students graduating,” says Dupuis.

READ MORE: In photos: Students cross the stage at Princess Margaret Secondary

Juilanna George, is one of the graduates. She just completed her final year at Penticton Secondary. Instead of walking the stage she drove to the parking lot of the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural school for her graduation on June 16, 2020.”It was nerve racking to realize that everyone would be watching you on a screen but I was glad to see the reaction everyone had towards it,” she says.

The 18 year old was disappointed she wasn’t able to cross the stage like her older relatives, but there was a silver lining.

“Because of the virtual graduation, my dad, who is in hospital, had the chance to watch it himself,” George explains.

“It makes me even more thankful for the opportunity that was given to me because of PIB.”

The drive-in graduation ceremony went for about two hours and featured students from across education institutions, from multiple high schools to Okanagan College, the University of British Columbia and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.

“Some of our students are not Penticton Indian Band members,” explains Kathy Pierre, PIB’s director of education.

“They’re students that either participated in programs with the Penticton Indian Band here at the education center or they’re students that have a parent that is a Penticton Indian Band member.”

READ MORE: In photos: Penticton valedictorians reflect on graduating year amid COVID-19

The virtual graduation had 55 people that tune into a live YouTube stream of the event, over 200 views on Facebook, and about 30 cars that came to the event itself.

“We knew that we weren’t able to bring everybody together in a community setting to have the big dinner that we usually have,” says Kathy Pierre.

The team was able to serve a drive through dinner and give a gift to all the graduates that participated in the event as they were driving out.

Joseph Pierre did all of the digital and technical support work for the graduation.

“We needed to find a way of honoring our grads, but still keeping our community safe,” he says.

“Doing things digitally was quite an amazing process and to work with such an amazing team,” says Rhea Dupuis, who credits Kathy and Joseph as well as other PIB staff for their efforts.

“It was a chance to connect with students, for them to connect with me again and to just talk about school, but also about how far they’ve come and how hard they’ve worked and to let them know that we’re proud of them and it was a joy that was kind of a highlight,” she says.

Dupuis says the event received a lot of positive feedback from community members.

“It was a success,” she says. “It just came altogether and it ran very smoothly.”

READ MORE: In photos: Modified, yet traditional graduation gives Penticton graduates a sense of normalcy

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Graduation 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boot launches campaign with Facebook Live event

NDP candidate for riding of Penticton joined by John Horgan, Richard Cannings and others

Osoyoos awards $77,000 contract for universal water metering

TR Underwood Engineering won the bid for planning and implementing water meters across town

Column: $200,000 donation to Penticton Regional Hospital more than ‘a little something’

The donation brings us closer to our goal of a second CT scanner at hospital

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen seeks input about proposed composting facility

Organics composting facility proposed for Campbell Mountain Landfill

Netflix star Francesca Farago seen hanging in the Okanagan

Farago got her big break as a reality TV star in Netflix’s ‘Too Hot to Handle’ in 2020

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Peachland resident finds severed bear paw on driveway

Tracie Gordon thought it was a Halloween prank, but it turned out to be a real bear paw

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Zero new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Five cases remain linked to an outbreak at Calvary Chapel in Kelowna

Kelowna RCMP investigating alleged group attack on teenager

A 14-year-old boy claims he was attacked by a group of teens Friday night

Most Read