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 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

First NationsGraduation 2020Salmon Arm

 

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

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

Just Posted

Tim Miller is selling his 76-foot steel bridge from his property in Burton, B.C. The bridge originates from the railway in Revelstoke. (Contributed)
For sale: a 100-ton 19th century bridge from Revelstoke

Bridge is now in Burton, B.C. and advertised for $40,000

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

Nest Grocers plans to sell locally produced items, such as from Wildflight Farm, First Light Farm, BA Sausages and meat from Greenslide Farm. (Photo by Sarah Mickel)
The future is here: Online grocery store opens in Revelstoke

Nest Grocers plans to emphasise locally produced foods

Jeff Nicholson retires at the end of the month after 19 years on the board for School District 19 (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke schools establish award to honour former trustee Jeff Nicholson

Donations are needed to help the award last in perpetuity

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Kelowna Law Courts. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Former Vernon teacher found guilty of historic sex crimes against minors

Anoop Singh Klair was found guilty of all eight charges against him in a Kelowna courtroom on Friday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The real estate market is hot in Vernon, and across the Okanagan. (John Dent photo)
North Okanagan home prices, demand continue to build

Single family home volumes up 200 per cent, worth average $647,000

An algal bloom on Wood Lake has residents concerned for the body of water's health. (Wendy Innes-Shaw)
‘Wood Lake looks seriously unwell’: Lake Country residents

Algal bloom appears to be getting worse, and stinky

A wildfire southeast of Vernon has been added to the BC Wildfire dashboard Friday, May 14, 2021. (BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire sparks southeast of Vernon

The fire appears to be in a remote area east of Aberdeen Lake

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Most Read