The graduating class of the Sweetgrass Aboriginal Head Start program followed in big shoes this year, whether they knew it or not.
The class marked 20 years of the program with past graduates and participants attending the ceremony to help celebrate.
Head Start director Katie Kawerski invited past graduates and participants to join the current graduates in a group picture as she proudly stood with them Wednesday afternoon.
“We were going through the group of grads we had this year and all of them had at least one person in their family who had come to Head Start [at some point]. So, all of the past grads and participants that came to the front were family members of the current grads,” said Kawerski.
As the past graduates, from as far back as 1995, made their way to the front of the Creighton Community Hall, Kawerski said she hadn’t seen many of the faces in a long time.
With the past graduates and participants joining in this year’s graduation ceremony was longer than usual, but Kawerski said it was great.
“As usual, it was chaotic, but fun,” she laughed. “Overall, it was a fun time.”
In addition to the traditional graduation ceremony, participants and their families were treated to performances from Ron Burwash and the Nemihitowok Hoop Troop.
The 21 graduates crowded around two large drums and performed for their families before officially graduating from the Head Start program.
The Sweetgrass Aboriginal Head Start program is available for children between the ages of three and five who are Métis, First Nations or Inuit. Though the program is run similarly to other preschools, Kawerski says there is a strong focus on the Aboriginal culture.
“We incorporate Aboriginal language in our program and that’s a huge component,” said Kawerski. “And when they go to drumming class and then go home they are singing their songs…and retaining the culture and incorporating it into their daily lives.”
Kawerski hopes to increase the culture language in the program in years to come and “find ways to provide more culture for our families.”
This year marked not only the 20th anniversary for the program, but also the largest class size yet.
Previously the program had a large passenger van for transportation, as students are picked up and dropped off each day, but the purchase of a bus last year gave the program opportunity to grow.
Going from a 16-passenger van to a mini-bus, there was room for another eight bodies.
Head Start will resume again on August 24 for the 2015-16 school year.