Secwépemc great-grandmother Lorna Thomas and daughter of revered elder Dr. Mary Thomas who died in 2007, graduates at 68, acquiring her Dogwood diploma from the Neskonlith Education Center in Salmon Arm in June 2020. (Photo contributed)

Secwépemc great-grandmother earns Dogwood diploma

Lorna Thomas graduates at same time as granddaughter

Lorna Thomas has lived a life full of learning and rich with experience, but she realized her grandchildren were getting something she didn’t have – and wanted.

A high school diploma.

At 68, the Secwépemc great grandmother, a member of the Neskonlith band, just earned her Dogwood diploma through the Neskonlith Education Centre in Salmon Arm.

In an interview peppered with infectious laughter, she said she doesn’t feel any different.

“Maybe just a little smarter.”

With a more serious tone, she confides she feels like she’s accomplished something.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I never had the chance to go back to school; I was always working all the time.”

Read more: Respected elder’s work honoured

Read more: Legends come to life on Salmon Arm stage

Lorna is the daughter of revered elder Dr. Mary Thomas, who died in 2007. Lorna was one of 17 children. Eleven are still alive, all but one living in Salmon Arm.

Lorna attended grades one through seven at Salmon Arm West Elementary.

She laughs about the teacher who she says helped her develop equal dexterity in both hands by hitting her left hand with a ruler every time she wrote with it.

In Grade 8 Lorna’s family moved to Surrey where school was tough, as it was through the first half of Grade 9 in Kelowna.

Around that time her mom needed more help with her siblings, so she stayed home.

Her work life has been varied, with a lot of office work, including 10 years when she ran a greenhouse and handled all the bookkeeping and other paper work.

She also worked for newspapers across B.C. and in Alberta.

She remembers when newspaper mogul Lord Thomson of Fleet came to Kelowna and she was his private secretary.

“I got to meet the dad and the son.”

Read more: Storytelling preserves Secwepemc culture, history in Shuswap

Read more: Bringing stories to life

Read more: Memories of lakeside summers

Lorna raised two sons and a foster-daughter as a single mom after her eldest son was six. She now has 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with two more on the way.

She says she learned a lot from her mom. When Mary was still alive, Lorna went to Kamloops and took ethnobotany.

“I got tired of it, I knew as much as the teacher,” she said.

Somewhat renowned locally for her delicious bannock, Lorna confirms she is the only one left who knows how to pit cook. She learned from her mom when the family used to catch fish from a fish run and barbecue it over the open fire.

Affected by medical concerns over the past few years which forced her to stop working, it was then Lorna decided it was time to go back to school.

“Then I’ve been seeing my grandchildren graduating. I thought if they can, I can do it.”

Deb McDougall, principal at Neskonlith Education Centre, said it’s exciting when adults decide they want to go back to school.

“Most are fighting horrific memories of school when they were little, that’s why they dropped out.”

She said Lorna has been extremely dedicated, showing up every day without fail, despite many obstacles.

McDougall would also like to get the word out about the centre’s Summer School programs, mainly for ages 11 and up. Those interested can email her at: principal@neskonlithec.com.

“Mainly because of COVID we wanted to reach out and help people. It’s difficult, they’ve had a hard time, parents don’t know how to teach; we’re going to support families who have struggled,” McDougall explained.

As for Lorna, this Saturday will be a very special day for her.

A barbecue is being held to honour not only her but her granddaughter Ashanta August, who is also graduating this year.

Lorna laughs when she explains her granddaughter is 18 while she is 68. Just a 50-year difference.



newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

#Salmon ArmFirst NationsGraduation 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Happy graduate Lorna Thomas completes her Adult Dogwood at 68 at the Neskonlith Education Center in Salmon Arm in June 2020. (Photo contributed)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

In photos and video: Colourful Canada Day parade rolls through Sicamous

Patriotic procession allows community to celebrate together while maintaining distance

RCMP find Shuswap man with replica weapon in breach of conditions

Chase resident ticketed for driving with inactive licence plates

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Popular Shuswap cross-country running event postponed

Region’s Lewiston Ultra on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic

Armstrong arsonist sentenced to 3 years probation

Arsonist must pay $500 to each party affected, no access to drugs, alcohol or fire starters

North Okanagan man gives back for Canada Day

Food packages given away to those living on the streets in Vernon

Dog rescued from rocky ledge in Summerland

Penticton Search and Rescue members perform high angle rescue

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

Okanagan mine makes way for industrial project

Council holds a special meeting to rezone property

Northbound lane of Coquihalla closed after vehicle incident near Hope

A northbound lane is closed just north of the Great Bear Snowshed, according to DriveBC

Water floods North Okanagan skate park, playground

Polson Park remains closed following Tuesday storms

Two rescued from tipped sailboat in Okanagan Lake near Kelowna

The two men were quickly brought to shore by a marine rescue crew

Most Read