The Grand Council of the Crees

Graduation Address for Special Needs Educators

by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Posted: 2007-12-13

It is my honour to have been asked by the graduating class to be speak at their graduation. I was in Montreal this past week on meetings when I was asked to come home to celebrate with the first ever graduating class of the Special Needs Education program. I could not think of a better way to start off my Christmas season. While at this time of year, we are rushing to try to finish things, I haven't even started my shopping yet, but today we are celebrating the fact that you have finished your work, you have graduated.

Lately in the news we have heard many stories which are not so inspiring or uplifting. We have heard of people committing atrocious acts in different places since the beginning of December. It seems like we see enough of this type of news, but here today to celebrate in one of our communities a story of accomplishment for the ten graduates. I believe strongly in and support what you have done. I remember attending the first Cree Special Needs Conference that was held this year.

The organizers of the conference told me there was a waiting list to get into the meeting. Parents, educators, community workers, leaders and others from the Cree Nation all went to Montreal because there was a strong desire to learn more, to participate and contribute in making the world of those with special needs in our communities and lives better. And, by doing so, I believe when we help others we really are helping ourselves as much if not more. We build upon the part of us that wants to contribute and add something to those around us. You, the graduates have taken this a step further in devoting a good portion of your time, as I understand the course you have just completed was 915 hours from beginning to completion. The graduates before you here today did this to learn more how they could positively impact the lives of children from 0-12 years old.

This will enhance a child's ability to interact within their family, community and school environments. The special needs educators training is important as it works with children with special needs who are having difficulties of a physical, intellectual, emotional or social nature. Sometimes, these are seen as barriers to those with special needs to participate more within our communities. But they do not have to be, and this is something the graduation class of the Special Needs Education program believe in, as well as many of you in this room.

Life is a gift. Each Monday morning, I send out some inspirational thoughts and a story within the organization. I think we need to inspire and encourage each other. I think in our work we need to create a positive environment. So, I would encourage you all this holiday season to think about doing some small measures that reflect positive influences to those around you. I know that being a part of this graduation today has inspired me, and the type of work you are going to do in our communities is something that will be quite special. I thank you for this.

I would like to thank all the people who had a part in putting together this class and training program. I would like to thank the people from the CEGEP in Saint Felicien, and those in the Child and Family Services Department and especially your families and friends who have supported you. We need more of programs that seek to build our community spirit, and exemplify those parts of our human nature that seek to help each other. We are all members of our communities, but I would like to think of our Nation as a family. We need more of the spirit of joy and celebration that is here tonight to spill over into our not only the holiday season but into the everyday life of our communities. Congratulations to the graduations; have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New year.