Great grandmother shows it's never too late to graduate

If you’re looking for proof it’s never too late to try something again, look no further than Lorna Thomas.

The Salmon Arm resident is graduating with an Adult Dogwood from the Neskonlith Education Center this year, at 68 years of age.

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“I always wanted to graduate so, when NEC started classes in Salmon Arm in 2017, I just had to go,” Thomas said.

Thomas is the daughter of the late Dr. Mary Thomas, a famed Neskonlith elder and ethnobotanist who worked tirelessly to promote Secwepemc language and culture. Originally, Thomas dropped out of school at age 14, after completing Grade 8. She worked the next 50 years, raising two children and one foster child in that time.

She now has 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.

Among instructors Thomas worked with was her own nephew, Kenthan Thomas, who is known as a travelling storyteller from the Secwepemc Nation.

Neskonlith Education Center principal Deb McDougall was another of Thomas’ instructors.

“I’ve been doing adult ed since 2004,” McDougall said. “She’s on the upper edge of the oldest person that I’ve ever taught.”

According to McDougall, Thomas was a dedicated student who never missed a day and would occasionally teach the instructors a thing or two.

“When Lorna was taking BC First Nations Studies 12, she would actually teach myself and Kenthan a whole bunch of stuff, because she knew so much,” McDougall said.

McDougall encourages anyone considering going back to school for their Adult Dogwood to take the leap. She said stepping through the door is the hardest part.

Meanwhile, Thomas offered a final message for fellow graduates: “I’m proud of you for graduating. I hope you continue with your studies, get a career, be happy and then think about starting a family.”

The Neskonlith Education Center plans to have summer school for ages 12 and older at both locations in Salmon Arm and Chase, beginning on July 6.

“We hope to offer instruction in computers, coding, robotics and general tutoring in current classes depending on funding and enrollment,” McDougall said.

Deadline to register is June 26 at 4 p.m. Neskonlith and indigenous students will be prioritized. For more information, email

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