As UNBC continues to celebrate the Class of 2023, the importance of lifelong learning and learning in home communities was highlighted during the graduation ceremony at the Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a Institute.
Nisga’a Elder Julia Adams took in the inspiring view of the Nass Valley, prior to gathering with other graduates and members of the community to celebrate her personal academic achievement and the overarching success of the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute (WWNI) as it hosted its 30th graduation event in the Village of Gitwinksihlkw.
Standing on the platform of a new lookout, the 77-year-old reflected on the site she used to visit in her youth. Much has changed over that time, including the creation of WWNI and all the opportunities it offers residents of the Valley.
Adams became the first Matriarch to receive a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies from WWNI and UNBC during the ceremony. It is the Elder’s second credential from the institute, which has a federated agreement with UNBC and has been offering post-secondary opportunities to people across northwestern B.C. since 1993.
“We are blessed to have a university on our homelands that offers a high degree of excellence,” Adams told the other graduates during her valedictory address. “Over the years in my learning at WWNI, I have learned we don’t have to look far for inspiration. We each have the potential to make an inspiring contribution to others in our nation by being true to our values and learning more about the Nisga’a culture, the traditions and the language - and there’s so much more to learn in our culture.”
Joining Adams in the walk across the stage were Francine Stewart, who graduated with a Certificate in General First Nations Studies and Destinee Clayton, who graduated with both a Certificate in General First Nations Studies and Certificate in Nisga’a Studies. In addition, Andrea Clayton received a Heath Care Assistant Certificate through a partnership involving WWNI and the Native Education College.
“Celebrate what you’ve accomplished,” Adams told her classmates. “And look forward to how you can inspire others – the young people, the adults. To attend and learn at WWNI is truly rewarding.”
WWNI President Dr. Deanna Nyce encouraged the graduates to keep learning and growing, saying, “There is no stop sign here.”
It was a sentiment echoed by UNBC President Dr. Geoffrey Payne. “Education is a path to many roads and I’m excited to see where you go.”