Jared Vincent, who is Kyuquot's only graduate this year from the community's high school, holds a certificate of recognition from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Submitted photo)
A hard-working young man from Kyuquot is graduating from high school this spring – the only student from the community to complete secondary studies this year. With such a small population and a low number of high school graduates each year, this is an accomplishment in itself. But his graduation was made even more special, when he received a congratulatory letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
“When first started talking about it, my mother sat down with me, and we started going over who we were going to invite to Jared’s grad. And she looked at me, and said ‘I think you should email Justin Trudeau and invite him,’” said Allison Vincent, mother of graduate, Jared Vincent.
“And she kept bugging me, so I got his contact information and I emailed him. And I would periodically email him again. About a month later, I get this package in the mail, and it’s a graduation certificate, and it’s got gold emblems on it,” added the mother, with clear enthusiasm in her voice.
The certificate was addressed to Jared, and signed by Justin Trudeau himself. It reads:
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to congratulate and recognize, Jared Vincent, on his high school graduation in Kyuquot, British Columbia. Please accept my warmest wishes as you begin your post-secondary studies.” Trudeau’s signature is at the bottom of the page.
Allison jumped for joy when she received the letter, and ran down the hallway to tell some of her coworkers—she received the letter at her workplace. They were also excited for her and Jared, though Jared had not yet seen the letter.
Allison says her son’s path hasn’t always been easy, and he was raised by her as a single mom, with help from her parents. This past year Jared lost his grandfather, whom he was so close to, but persevered in his education anyway. Jared’s always been focused on school; so much so, that he had little interest in “partying” with other young people.
Grandmother, Velina Vincent, who helped raise Jared, specifically recalls a fourth grade teacher being struck by Jared’s sensibility and firmness in his identity, even at that young age.
“Jared has never been ashamed of how he dresses… and he will not let people make fun of him. In grade four, he liked to wear skinny jeans,” said grandmother Velina. “And his mother refused to get them because she was afraid people were going to make fun of her son. I bought them for him, and he walks into class, and he goes, ‘Tada!’,”
She added that Jared then told all the children if they were going to laugh at his pants, to laugh now so he can laugh with them, but that they would have to accept his choice of clothing.
“That impressed his teacher that whole year,” said Velina. “And by the end of the year we were putting in for NTC scholarships. She wrote a letter for him and told the tribal council how impressed she was with this young man who just seemed so mature for his age.”
That teacher was Jennifer Manuel. Manuel was Jared’s teacher for two years, before leaving the school, and coming back this past year. This year, she arrived under more desperate circumstances. The Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School was completely without a high school teacher, and multiple people reached out to Manuel for help. She agreed to fill the role, but had to leave her family behind in Duncan, B.C., she said.
The school managed to keep the students learning before she got there, by using online education courses, and relying on various supervisors to drop-in periodically. But the students were still struggling without full-time help.
“Well, you know the problem is that there’s a crisis… a shortage of teachers,” said Manuel. “Vancouver hasn’t even filled all their positions… hundreds of positions in the Lower Mainland. If you can’t fill jobs in the city centers it’s going to be very difficult for these remote communities.”
When asked if she remembered the time Jared showed his skinny leg girls’ jeans to his class, she said she did, confirming exactly what Velina said about how awe struck she was by Jared’s confidence.
“I think the biggest thing for Jared is that he has always had a very strong vision for what his future looks like, and he’s never detracted from that. He has always been clear that his dream was to become a high-end hairdresser,” she added.
And that’s just what he will be doing this fall. His graduation ceremony is June 1, and then a few months later, Jared will be attending the John Casablanca’s Institute hair program, in downtown Vancouver. Allison (his mother) is both fearful, and excited for him.
Jared is just mostly excited, he said.
“I’ve always liked hair, all my life, because I remember I used to play with my mom’s hair when I was three years old. Growing up I’ve always practiced on her,” said Jared.
“I want to start getting into fashion, after I do hair. At that school, they have a fashion program. But a hairdresser is my big goal,” he said. “I’m thinking about opening up my own salon.”