A high school diploma for an Innu… at 72 years old

A high school diploma for an Innu... at age 72


A studious Innu elder graduated from high school this week at age 72, an accomplishment she achieved alongside students her grandchildren's age.

“I didn't leave the diploma in its envelope, I rushed to frame it. There, it hangs in the living room,” proudly asserts Jeanne d'Arc Thirnish, an Innu from Uashat mak Mani-utenam, near Sept-Îles, on the North Shore.

This Tuesday, Mitshapeu Adult Education Center hosted a graduation ceremony for the class of 2021, which included Ms. Thirnish.

Dressed in a gown and mortarboard, the venerable graduate took the stage to the cheers of her classmates, some of whom were the age of her grandchildren.

How did- her at this precise moment? The septuagenarian lets out a small laugh then answers after a silence. “It was like big for me. It's years of effort. »

A start at boarding school

Her schooling began at the Maliotenam boarding school, which she attended until her sixth year.

The young student did three more years of study in Sept-Îles, before gradually having to abandon her classes.

“Sometimes I had to tell the teacher that I couldn't come. I missed school to babysit my younger brothers,” says Thirnish.

She briefly returned to adult education in 1971, before dropping out again. Then life took its course.

In the next 45 years, she had three children, raised them as a stay-at-home mom, and then lost one of her daughters in 2011.< /p>

It was not until 2016 that she decided to make a major return to studies, motivated among other things by the opening of a regional adult training center in Uashat.

Jeanne d' Arc Thirnish was then living in Maliotenam, 15 km away, and had no vehicle, a pitfall she solved by carpooling with other students.

Fierce and punctual

“I can tell you that Ms. Thirnish was always there, on time, and [she's] a hard worker,” says Mitshapeu director Gilles Larouche.

The Innue succeeded in all subjects in the curriculum at 71, even though a pandemic interrupted classes for several months.

She even found time to babysit her grandchildren and take karate lessons after her school days. school, underlines her daughter, Yoko Thirnish.

“It is a model for our family, and for our community, where there are many dropouts. She is the proof that at any age, we can finish our studies, and that it is never too late”, she underlines.

  • The Ministry of Education could not confirm that this was its oldest graduate in Quebec.

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