The Selkirk College Class of 2021 is taking a collective step forward into a world of opportunity after months of exhibiting resilience that required fortitude on an unmatched level.
A fitting representative for the Class of 2021, Selkirk College valedictorian Adrian Moyls knows plenty about overcoming struggle to find success. The college’s student ambassador co-ordinator and a peer tutor, he balanced two years of full-time study in the School of Health and Human Services while helping raise a two-year-old son, holding down several jobs and continuing to support extended family through hard times. A Métis student who came from very little, Moyls is thankful for the chance to serve as example of remarkable post-secondary education.
“It’s an incredible honour because there are so many brilliant and beautiful people that are in the Selkirk College programs,” says Moyls. “My friends and colleagues at Selkirk College provide so much strength, brilliance and inspiration … they bring hope to this region. The simple opportunity to be here is such a privilege, to have a chance to be valedictorian is a badge of honour. I am incredibly grateful and honoured.”
Moyls grew up in Nelson across the street from the Selkirk College Silver King Campus. Raised by his father, Moyls and his older brother did not enjoy the same supports and comforts as most of their friends. Through grit and determination, Moyls overcame hardships and by high school was a successful student who played on the Nelson Leafs.
While continuing to play junior hockey, Moyls attended Selkirk College after high school where he was in the School of University Arts and Sciences. Once he turned 20, hockey ended and instead of continuing with post-secondary studies Moyls headed to Northern Alberta where he worked as a roughneck on drilling rigs.
When Moyls was 25, his father died suddenly. It turned his world upside-down, but through newfound struggles he was given an opportunity to mentor students in the REACH alternative high school program at Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Secondary.
“I lost the most important person in my life in a pretty horrific way, it was traumatizing and I lost motivation,” Moyls says. “It took me a while to find myself again and it came through helping to mentor youth. I didn’t know I would love anything that much as something I could do as a career.”
His efforts with REACH led to work with Freedom Quest, a Castlegar-based non-profit organization that provides services and programming to youth who have been negatively impacted by substance use in the West Kootenay and Boundary region. Knowing he would need a formal education to make an even greater impact on the lives of others, he entered the School of Health and Human Services as a mature student seeking a pathway filled with passion, purpose and meaning. Channeling the energy to overcome adversity, he graduates with the Class of 2021 in the Child and Youth Care Program and the Social Service Worker Certificate Program.
“My time at Selkirk College has been nothing short of transformational,” he says. “The knowledge, skills and connections infused with growth and development that I have experienced and undergone has become completely invaluable to me. I know the importance and awareness of privilege and how to genuinely become an ally for those facing oppression, injustice and discrimination.”
Understanding more About self
Though his mother is Métis, Moyls was discouraged from learning more about his culture. Worried about being bullied and his father’s scorn, it was not a part of his identity that Moyls held onto. That changed when he arrived to Selkirk College where he discovered depth of knowledge in the classroom and support through Indigenous Services.
“I only saw my mom a handful of times in a 10-year period growing up,” says Moyls, adding that he has now fully connected with his mother. “I didn’t know my roots and had no idea who I was in terms of my Indigenous heritage. The last two years have brought a lot of Indigenous focus through my coursework and I have worked hard to find that side of me. Identity achievement is one of those things that we all have to go through. Until we identify with every piece of who we are, we can find ourselves leading a life that is not true to ourselves.”
While he continues to work with Freedom Quest, Moyls will pursue further post-secondary ambitions in September when he attends Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. After two more years of study, Moyls will attain his Bachelor of Social Work while living in the community where his son Gage and his mother reside.
Ultimately focused on working with youth in some capacity, Moyls found the spark he needed at Selkirk College.
“As we go through life, there are so many things that are out of our control,” he says. “Everybody goes through their own journey and I have gone through a lot in my life, but you have to accept it. You need to look at what you can control, your next step and what you have within yourself.”
Selkirk College Convocation 2021 was held virtually earlier this month with 900 students graduating from a variety of certificate, diploma and degree programs. Moyls recorded his valedictory address at the Silver King Campus in the same spot he used to rollerblade, skateboard and play catch with his dad. In a year that was far from normal, Moyls speaks from the heart when he talks about overcoming.
“You are going to through pain, suffering, loss, struggle, challenge, hardship … without that there is no way to get to where you need to go,” he says. “If you are not challenged and tested, you cannot reach your true potential and realize what you are capable of attaining. These are challenging times, so my hat is off for what people are dealing with currently. There are so many things out of our control, when we relinquish that then we can empower ourselves for what we can do. We can create a future that we can live in.”
You can view the Convocation 2021 virtual ceremony that includes the valedictorian speech at: https://selkirk.ca/admissions/enrolment-services/convocation.