COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN
The eight students of the graduating class of the Sioux Valley High School take their seats on stage during the awards ceremony at the former Fleming School building on Tuesday afternoon.
Two years ago, Tahnee Sutherland was on the verge of dropping out of high school.
Valedictorian Tahnee Sutherland speaks to the audience at the Sioux Valley High School graduation Tuesday. (COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN)
Donald Elk, left, and principal Kevin Nabess laugh as they hand out the first diploma to graduate Kelvin Bell. (COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN)
But thanks to supportive teachers at Sioux Valley High School and a change of attitude, the proud 19-year-old not only graduated from high school on Tuesday, she was the Class of 2012 valedictorian and winner of the Governor General’s award for academic excellence.
"The teachers really encouraged me," Sutherland said. "I’m proud, and I’m glad I made everyone proud, too."
Sutherland is one of eight graduates at SVHS in Brandon, located at the former Fleming School building.
The main message she wanted to send to her fellow graduates was: "Don’t give up on your dreams. It’s really important to follow them because they’re all you have, basically."
Guidance counsellor Corinne Harper said she is thrilled to see Sutherland achieve such success.
"Just to see her be at the top of her class right now, we’re so proud," Harper said. "We’re so proud of all of them, but for her to make that accomplishment is just great."
Several years ago, there were very few graduates coming out of Sioux Valley. Harper said she is pleased to see the graduation numbers on the rise.
"Being from Sioux Valley, I really want to see our kids be successful and get out into the world and do what they’re meant to do," Harper said.
In addition to the eight graduates at SVHS, there are also four other students from Sioux Valley graduating from other schools in Brandon.
It’s the first time the graduation ceremony was held at the school, since it opened at its Brandon location six years ago.
"In the past we had it in Sioux Valley," principal Kevin Nabess said. "The grad class requested it to be here because they’re the products of getting their education in this building."
There were more than 100 students in the Grade 8 to 12 school this year. Nabess said the small class sizes make a major impact on the students.
"Our teachers know all the students by name and they know their parents," Nabess said. "We’re a big family here and the students see that. They come to us with more than school concerns, but other issues that arise in their young lives. We try to guide them as best as possible."
Students are bused in from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to attend the school. Nabess said they take pride in incorporating aboriginal culture into the lessons.
"We indigenize a lot of our curriculum," Nabess said. "We follow the provincial guidelines, we do the provincial standards tests in Grade 12 … but we use a lot of aboriginal First Nations material to reach the same outcomes and we’re showing success."
Sutherland said she appreciated the lessons that featured aboriginal authors or cultural background.
"We learn more about ourselves and it’s good to know where you’re coming from," she said.
The graduating class also included Kelvin Bell, Chasity Crowe, Scott Hotain, Archie Pratt, Katie Taylor, Nathan Wasicuna and Steven Whitecloud.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 20, 2012