Celebrating students and graduates across the territory

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 10, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

As the Minister of Education, and on behalf of my Yukon Party Caucus colleagues, I want to first take the opportunity to congratulate all our graduating students across the territory. Whether you are moving from elementary to secondary school, earning your high school diploma, or completing a program at Yukon College or elsewhere, we applaud you for all you have accomplished over the course of the school year.

These past few weeks, my colleagues and I have been honoured to attend your graduation events across the territory and to congratulate you in person. We have met many exceptional students who will certainly go on to do great things.

In particular, I want to recognize the students and graduating class of F.H. Collins Secondary, who underwent a huge transition this year. Your ability to make the move to a brand new building in the middle of a school year and take it in your stride is remarkable.

I also want to recognize all First Nations graduates who have worked to be proud representatives of your heritage and values throughout your school careers. The Premier and his wife attended this year’s First Nations graduation ceremony, and were very impressed with all the students as well as the inclusion of First Nations culture in the ceremony as well.

F.H. Collins Opening

Education Minister Doug Graham at the official opening of the new F.H. Collins Secondary School, greeting his old friend and former F.H. student Joe Jack and congratulating him on his recent post-secondary degree.

Some of this year’s high school graduates will depart to obtain a degree outside Yukon, while others will take advantage of the many post-secondary programs offered by Yukon College. Wherever graduates go, the Department of Education provides support to enhance their potential for academic success.

For those remaining in the territory, exciting things are happening at Yukon College.

Our government has committed $1.5 million over three years to help the college work toward becoming Yukon’s first university.

In addition, we have dedicated $1.25 million for further development of the Yukon College campus, including work to repair the building envelope, upgrade lighting and enhance accessibility. Planning for further changes is also underway.

The coming academic year brings improvements to the Student Financial Assistance Act, particularly in regard to eligibility requirements and distribution of the Yukon Grant. While I encourage all students and their families to visit the Student Financial Assistance site and read all the changes, I have included a few highlights below.

Under the new Act, there will no longer be restrictions on receiving the Yukon Grant if you are also funded by the Government of Canada or your First Nation, and the grant will now be calculated on a weekly basis, allowing a maximum of 170 weeks of funding. Likewise, if you receive the Student Training Allowance for upgrading, you may now receive 68 weeks of additional funding without using any of the 170 weeks allocated toward the Yukon Grant.

These changes were brought forward and passed in the Yukon Legislative Assembly to address concerns from students, educators, First Nation governments and a number of other stakeholders. They will ensure that funding for all Yukon students enrolled in post-secondary education is distributed in an equitable, yet fiscally-responsible way.

While our government has been working diligently to improve support for post-secondary students, we are also always working hard for our elementary and high school students here at home.

This year’s budget offers $520,000 to Yukon school councils to cover a portion of the expenses for essential school supplies, to reduce the financial burden on families who face many costs at the start of a school year.

Once the essential supplies have been provided, school councils will work with their schools and spend any remaining dollars based on the unique needs of their school communities. For example, the money could cover school fees or costs associated with extra-curricular activities such as sports teams or school clubs.

Our government’s commitment to students is based on the knowledge that they will become the future leaders of this territory and this country.

My message to students is that we want to provide the best possible environment for your academic success, and continue to work together with you, your educators and your families to ensure that you are getting all that you can out of your education. My colleagues and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you excel through your innovation, intelligence and creativity, and we wish you the best in your future endeavours.