N.W.T. elder earns high school diploma after 12 years of study
Resolved to finish education he started in residential school in 1950s
An elder in the Arctic community of Paulatuk, N.W.T., has become the oldest high-school graduate at an Alberta distance-education centre, after completing his school work by mail over 12 painstaking years.
Peter Green, 64, earned his diploma from the Alberta Distance Learning Centre at a ceremony earlier this month in Calgary.
The achievement, Green said, has helped him heal some deep scars from his past, such as his experience in residential school during the 1950s.
"Things were taken from me, such as my language, and my self-esteem was never, never that great there. And I experienced sexual abuse," Green told CBC News in an interview.
Green left the residential school in Akalavik, N.W.T., in 1959, when he was in Grade 7. About three decades later, he said he began thinking about going back to school.
"I decided to do something about, you know, what was taken from me during my childhood," he said. "One of those things was to complete my education."
Challenge 'just to get going'
But the local school in Paulatuk, a remote hamlet of about 300 located near the Amundsen Gulf, would not accept an elder. So Green enrolled in correspondence courses at the Alberta Distance Learning Centre.
Over the next 12 years, Green laboured through his coursework during his spare time, submitting assignments by mail.
"You know what the hardest part was always for me? Just to get going," he said.
"That's always been the hardest part. Once I got into it, I flew through everything."
Finally, Green travelled to Calgary to pick up his high school diploma in a ceremony June 5, standing in a room full of fellow grads who were all decades younger.
"Oh, I felt on top of the world," he said. "I'm still there."
The moment touched others at the graduation ceremony, principal Cam Oulton told CBC News.
"I don't cry, but I came pretty damn close, and other people were crying," Oulton said.
Now a high-school graduate, Green said his next goal is to reclaim knowledge of his traditional Inuvialuit language.
"Within a year, I hope to speak it very fluently, like, you know, I've spoken it when I was a child," he said.