Student Destany Lulua reflects on going back to school and graduating amid global pandemic

‘I was so excited for grad and then it just changed so dramatically.’

This article is part of a series focused on Indigenous students in the Okanagan who are graduating in 2020. 

Destany Lulua returned to school today for the first time in months.

“I feel pretty excited about returning, I love school,” she says.

Lulua is a grade 12 student at Clarence Fulton Secondary, located in Vernon, B.C. She says she’s returning because “it would just be awesome to see everyone and get some help from one of my teachers.”

The 18 year old has been living in the Okanagan for five years and has been attending Clarence Fulton Secondary since she moved to the Okanagan. Lulua comes from the Tsilhqot’in Nation “people of the river,” which is located in the Nemiah Valley.

 “I basically fell in love with the Okanagan when we got here,” she says. 

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. 

Destany Lulua 

Lulua, describes herself as a down to earth, happy adventurous person who is always laughing. 

“I’m also a family person, my family is pretty important to me, especially my grandparents. I like spending as much time with them as I can because they have so much to teach me,” Lulua says.

Destany Lulua, wearing a ribbon skirt that she made for her graduation. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna.

While attending Clarence Fulton Secondary, Lulua spent her spare time beading. 

“There’s so many things in the world that I enjoy doing, but beading is one of my most favourite,” Lulua says, explaining that she would make moccasins for her younger brother on her lunch breaks.

“I never really got involved in the school spirit, I always stayed in the welcome room and did work or just beaded and talked to my ASW’s [Aboriginal Support worker],” she says. 

Destany and I communicated back and forth via email last week. We had a conversation about how she has been grappling 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 both personally and when it comes to school?

Destany:  Well, I’m doing decent I think, but being with my family for this whole COVID thing has probably depleted all of my sanity haha. Regarding school? I freaking miss it! I miss my teachers so much. School also gave a good schedule to follow, so it’s kinda hard trying to keep that schedule while at home.

A: How does schooling look to you currently?

D: Schooling is pretty hard right now, because I’m one of those students that need to be face to face with my teacher. I really only have one class now, and that’s cooking. And it’s just so easy not to do it, but i do manage to get my work done. 

A: What did graduation look like before COVID-19? And what does it look like now?

D: Grad before this whole thing started was basically killer. The grad class had a lot of fun activities that we WERE going to do, but we can’t and that really sucks a lot. It’s totally not rad. Dry grad is also what I was totally stoked for, but that sadly won’t happen.

A: How are you feeling about  2020 graduation changing?

D: I was so excited for grad and then it just changed so dramatically. It was so sucky, because I was finally coming out of my shell and wanted to be more involved.

A: Are you feeling supported right now?

D: Oh boy, I’m super supported! Swear to the creator, I have the best teachers. My ASW’s are also pretty epic beans and helped me all the way and were always my biggest supporters and motivators. Basically, everyone around me is so super helpful and I couldn’t have asked for such great people in my life.

A: What are your plans for the fall ?

D: In the fall, I’m hoping to go to college for my BA and then get my diploma in human service work. It would be so totally tubular if i can go back to my community and help out around contribute whatever I can (and to be with family again, I miss them sooo much). 

A: Now lastly, What’s your message for other people graduating in the class of 2020?
D: My message to the grads of 2020 is that I’m so super proud of you!! Oh my gosh, it was probably hard, but you really did it! We may not get the grad we want, but the important thing is that you freaking survived school and you did your best and just rocked it!


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