In his 2007 Harvard commencement speech, Bill Gates said, “I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this, ‘Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.’”
In a ceremony held at Edmonton’s Inner City High School on Tuesday, a similar scenario played out as another proud dad sat in the audience relishing in his daughter’s accomplishment as she returned to school and completed her high school education.
“It makes me really proud and I’m happy for her because now she can continue and go wherever she wants to go in life,” said Gar, proud father of Grade 12 graduate Cynthia.
Along with Cynthia, six other students were awarded the ultimate testament to their hard work and persistence – a high school diploma. While the students at Inner City High don’t tend to take quite as long as the Microsoft Chairman, social circumstances such as broken homes and lives rooted in the street often prevent them from achieving a high school diploma in only three years.
“I was introduced to the school by a few friends. I was sick of doing labour work and thought I might as well get my Grade 12 so I didn’t have to do stucco for the rest of my life,” said Cynthia.
“People sometimes take a little longer than others and this was a good spot for her to get going again, and it worked. I thank everybody involved,” added Gar.
With a diploma under her belt, Cynthia applied to Grant MacEwan and was accepted into the Arts and Cultural Management program this fall. She will also be the first recipient of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation’s (EOCF) scholarship for students at Inner City High.
“For her, [the scholarship] must mean the world but for me I’m just super proud. She’s finally got it done and she did a really good job,” said Gar.
“I’ve really enjoyed the school because it’s supportive, anything you need help with the school’s very quick to help you. They have lots of facilities for the students to use and they have a lot available for everyone.”
Inner City High offers youth an academic and arts-based focus as an alternative route to achieving an education. But, just as important, the school offers youth help in a variety of ways, including finding appropriate accommodations, counseling, food and medical care.
Inner City High’s Director, Dr. Joe Cloutier, says the school’s mandate has to be large in order to succeed. “Without taking care of their lives, as a whole, we have no hope of giving them an education,” he said.
“We are building bonds of trust by saying ‘You don’t have to worry about this anymore.’” In some cases, the work will be nothing short of life-saving.
The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation is extremely proud of the work accomplished by not only the graduates, but by all students who are making an effort to better their lives. Attendance is at a record high and, with more renovations slated to be complete in August, the school itself is looking better than ever.
For more information on Inner City High School and the EOCF’s commitment to its redevelopment, please visit oilersfoundation.ca.