For Patricia Johnson, getting her intro to Tourism and Hospitality program certificate meant a lot.
“I want to be the boss one day, have my own business, take people around and show them our beautiful community,” she said after being awarded her certificate on Thursday. “This is my next step into tourism and hospitality management.”
The awards ceremony honouring North Island College (NIC) tourism/hospitality and Aquaculture Pathway students was at the new Kwa’Lilas Hotel in Port Hardy, which will be having its grand opening in May.
The event featured speeches from Hereditary Chiefs George and Hutch Hunt, co-ordinator for k’awat’si Tourism Davis Henderson, and NIC instructors Danita Schmidt and Todd Masse.
“I want to welcome you beautiful people,” said Chief George Hunt at the opening of the ceremony. He then praised the Kwa’lilas Hotel for honouring First Nations’ culture and hosting the students. “What a great honour.”
Chief Hutch Hunt spoke next, saying he would like to “welcome you all to the territory of the Kwakiutl people. Gila’kasla to the students who are graduating today. Well done, I salute you. You are role models for our people and now you must work hard and be the best you can be.”
Henderson gave a speech after, explaining how his schooling helped him move from manual labour into a full-blown career in the tourism industry.
“I was always a labour guy,” said Henderson. “I had no idea that my path would take me to where I am today as a tourism co-ordinator.”
Henderson graduated high school in 2002 and worked manual labour jobs over the years. He was working at the Neucel Specialty Cellulose pulp mill in Port Alice when he made the decision to change careers, move his family to Squamish and enter into a tourism destination management program.
“Moving and going back to school after 10 years made learning really difficult,” he said. “My hats off to you guys in finishing what you started. Keep going forward.”
After the awards were handed out, Johnson said she felt the NIC’s intro to tourism and hospitality program was “fun, and very informational.”
She praised Schmidt as her instructor, saying she was awesome.
“Danita helped me out with everything in every way,” said Johnson. “She was always there for me, so understanding and so supportive.”
Johnson’s family is from Rivers Inlet and Bella Bella and she spent a lot of time in Port Hardy growing up.
“This is my home base, I love it here,” she said, adding she’s definitely planning to keep upgrading and continue on with her education until she reaches the scholastic goals she’s set for herself.
For Adam Nelson, the 10-week Aquaculture Pathway program was “pretty good,” he said. “It was a new experience for me.”
Nelson added he loved going to NIC and really enjoyed the time he spent there. He will be continuing his education in a 14- week aquaculture program in the future.
“Even though I finished this program, I want to keep going.”