Annual Honouring our Leaders celebration fosters community, connections, and culture

“The Honouring Our Leaders ceremony at BCIT is an amazing event that fosters community, family, friendships, and culture. I feel that this event is essential to building a culture of understanding at [BCIT] and maintaining a foundation of support for current and future students,” said event Master of Ceremonies and BCIT alumnus Jordan Waunch.

Left: Artist and carver Aaron Nelson-Moody/ Tawx’sin Yexwulla, also known as “Splash,” was a BCIT Part-time Studies student many years ago. He also carved the 17-foot-tall Coast Salish house post that stands in SW1. He always comes back and helps us with our Traditional Witness ceremony.

Along with co-emcee Mikah Fox, also an alumnus from the BCIT School of Business, Jordan said he was honoured and excited to participate in the event—now in its sixth year.

Hosted by BCIT Indigenous Services, this year’s Honouring our Leaders celebration was held June 14, 2018 at the Burnaby Campus. The event honoured Indigenous graduates, peer mentors, and alumni in an evening that included families, catering by Salmon and Bannock (Vancouver’s only First Nations restaurant), storytelling, and traditional hand drumming.

This year, BCIT celebrated the accomplishments of 182 newly minted Indigenous alumni, graduating from a diverse range of programs. Of the approximately 220 guests in attendance this year were 30 graduates, 22 alumni, and 10 mentors.

Each year this celebration brings new gifts to the BCIT, and this year was no different. This year’s ceremony acknowledged six Red Seal graduates as part of the collaboration with the Industry Training Association. They asked to be a part of our celebration and we graciously honored their presence.

This year we had a few representatives from the BCIT Board of Governors, including Robert Phillips, who also spoke to the audience as one of the event’s “witnesses.” For his First Nations ancestry—and many other reasons—Mr. Phillips is such a role model for our students.

The event also honored all BCIT alumni present at our ceremony. Four Indigenous Nursing alumni attended, along with Tania Dick, BScN, MN, RN and President of the Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia. Tania is also First Nations, and was the biggest cheerleader for this group.

It was great to receive a letter of heartfelt congratulations to our students this year from the Honourable Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

We were so proud to host Indigenous group Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga’a Traditional Dance Group, which included 20 individuals to share songs and stories from their traditional home lands. The group includes two BCIT students and one alumni. Amazing!

It brings me great hope for our future generations to see our students obtain a great education and be part of the growing trend of Indigenous graduates. I believe education is the key to success and gives our people the tools necessary to make positive change in our future generations and our communities.

We are at a time where we need Indigenous role models and mentors because we are at a very early stage of feeling success. Our students struggle with identity as one of their main barriers, for many reasons such as the 60s scoop, residential school effects, racism, stereotypes, and employment barriers.  We are all responsible for student success, for being accountable to all students by removing barriers and being an active part of reconciliation.

BCIT Indigenous Services serves as a welcoming and supportive “home away from home” for our Indigenous students, offering resources, support, and programming that promotes Indigenous student success.


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