Cap and gown for NORTEP and NORPAC’s graduation. Photo courtesy Facebook.

NORTEP and NORPAC students are saying their final goodbyes to the programs as they graduate this weekend.

The Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) is ending, and its professional access college (NORPAC) will be absorbed into Northlands College this summer after a much-protested decision was made by the province last year.

This week, fourth-year NORTEP student Kat Fosseneuve has been busy doing what more than 40 years of NORTEP students before her have done at this time of year: she submitted schoolwork under final deadlines, hauled decorations to this year’s grad venue, picked up her cap and gown, and is now setting up for Saturday’s ceremony.

The mother of three has been feeling the normal emotions that revolve around a grad. There’s the satisfaction at being able to finish what she started, the anticipation of seeing the culmination of all her hard work, and the pride “that I was able to do all this while I was raising children.”

However, there are some bittersweet feelings that tie into being a part of NORTEP’s final graduating class.

“It’s not like our grad, like we’re done. It’s like the whole program is done. Like they’re done with us,” Fosseneuve said.

“We were all emotional towards the last day of class. We had breakfast together and there were a lot of tears, a lot of hugging of the staff. The staff were really supportive.”

Graduating NORPAC student Rielle Desjarlais said it didn’t start sinking in until this week.

“It is a little upsetting for everyone. It’s the end of an era with NORTEP/NORPAC. Everyone is filled with emotions. They’re so proud of us for being able to make it this far and they’re also so saddened by what the government has chosen to do to a very successful program,” Desjarlais said.

In spite of all that’s gone on with the province, students and staff want the weekend to focus on their accomplishments rather than the political side of things.

Desjarlais, who plans on using her degree to get into the health field, will have 15 family members and friends on hand to cheer her on at the cap and gown ceremony on Saturday.

The event starts at 2 p.m. at the Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre.