Sign of the times? NWT finds new ways to celebrate grads

Last modified: May 1, 2020 at 12:49pm

St Pat’s principal Todd Stewart distributes 2020 grad signs around Yellowknife.

Ten staff from a Yellowknife high school could be found in the front yards of their graduating students on Friday morning, clutching hammers.

As ways of celebrating grad go, this one probably sounds unusual.

The teachers had half an hour, while students were distracted in a video class, to set up signs outside the homes of all 91 St Pat’s graduates.


“We’ve been looking for a way to do this for a long time,” said Todd Stewart, the school principal, in a hasty interview after hammering down his first sign – with eight more to go.

The NWT’s Covid-19 restrictions make the holding of any kind of gathering for graduation impossible. Schools are closed until the fall, meaning graduating students won’t ever again convene for class – other than by video link.

“You feel so terrible. Grad and all the activities that go with it really are a rite of passage. We’ve been trying to find some normalcy to this year’s grad, how we can make it special for them,” said Stewart.

“People are doing all kinds of different things. We decided to create some signs, put them on lawns, and say, ‘Hey, a grad lives here.’ Just to kind-of celebrate with them.”

Stewart said the school is looking at other options to brighten up an otherwise gloomy grad, too.


“This is one way we could make it kind-of special for them,” he said.

‘Everybody bawled’

Meanwhile, Aurora College students turned the tables on their instructors – creating a surprise video to mark their graduation from the early learning and child care program.

The video, posted to YouTube, sees graduates magically hand a diploma to each other through a series of homemade clips edited together by student Gloria Gaudet, from Délı̨nę.

For the video to work, students had to carefully plan out how the rolled-up diploma would be “passed” from person to person by throwing or handing it out of shot.


“Should we passing it or grabbing it from the left, or right, or up, or down?” explained Crystal Catholique, one of the students. “We all did our own video at home and sent Gloria the clip.”

The 2020 grad video made by Aurora College early learning and child care graduates.

On Thursday, the students had their last video call together with their instructors. They were presenting their career vision boards – an exercise designed to show where the students hope their lives and education take them.

At the end, the students played the video for the college staff.

“Everybody bawled,” said Catholique. “Everybody was speechless.”

She added a day later: “You still watch it today and this will remind us forever of what we had to go through when we should have been graduating together.

“We’ve become a big family over two years and this makes it that much more special.”