This article is part of a series focused on Indigenous students from the Okanagan who are graduating in 2020.
Serenity Baptiste, also known as Nqaqamls, which means ‘to be serene’, in Nsyilxcən, the Syilx language, graduated from Princess Margaret Secondary, in Penticton, B.C this year.
“It’s a really overwhelming feeling, knowing that my grad class has made history,” she says. “It also makes me realize that I’m grateful for the support system I have.”
She has been attending Princess Margaret Secondary school for the past three years and previously attended Norkam Senior Secondary, in Kamloops, B.C., before moving back to the Okanagan.
Baptiste participated in the Penticton Indian Band drive-in graduation ceremony on June 16th.
“I had a blast with it, it wasn’t how I imagined it, but I’m grateful,” she says.
“Seeing some of my fellow grads cross the stage. It was still overwhelming for me but it also makes me feel grateful that I got something small, but special.”
Given the unique circumstances facing the graduating classes of 2020, IndigiNews Okanagan is reporting a series on Indigenous students graduating this year. We want to get to know these students and hear their thoughts on what it’s like to graduate amid a global pandemic.
Getting to know Serenity Baptiste (Nqaqamls)
“I am a proud member of the Syilx and Secwepemc territories,” says Baptiste whose ancestry includes Syilx and Tk’emlúps te.
The 18 year old is Penticton Indian Band member, and was born and raised in unceded territory of the Penticton Indian Reserve.
She says she embraces her Indigenous culture, describing herself as a strong Indigenous woman.
“I am also a very emotional and straight forward person,” she says.
When Baptiste is not doing school work, she enjoys her traditional practices of hoop dancing, stickgames, and powwow dancing as well as photography, cooking and choreography.
Serenity and I communicated back and forth via email. We had a conversation about how she grappled with learning from home, how she feels about graduating and what her plans are for the fall. I’ve edited our conversation for length and clarity.
Athena: How are you doing?
Serenity: My physical and mental health are pretty good I would say, as I have my ways of coping with the amount of stress. Schooling wise, I would say I am doing pretty okay, kind of stressing and overwhelming.
A: How does schooling look to you currently?
S: Currently, graduation is virtual, prom and dry grad are cancelled. It is definitely a stressful and overwhelming time, but I’m doing my best to stay positive through this Covid-19 pandemic.
A: What did graduation look like before COVID-19? Now what does it look like?
S: I imagined my graduation year, full of awesome memories with my friends, seeing my friends cross the stage with tears in my eyes, and feeling the amount of pride I would feel when I saw them cross the stage. Also, participating in prom, dry grad, and the grad parade; seeing all my friends looking absolutely amazing in their nice, formal clothing.
A: What are your plans for the fall?
S: My plan for the fall is to go into college, to get my Indigenous fluency degree and work towards my bachelors of education
A: Now lastly, What’s your message for other people graduating in the class of 2020?S: My message to my fellow grads is to stay strong! We are all in this together, never give up, and do your best to keep a positive attitude through this difficult time. Keep your head held high. Wai Limlimpt. (Thank you).