Resplendent in purple caps and gowns, 28 students accepted their diplomas from Diamond Jenness Secondary School on Friday.
Family and friends packed the high school's atrium to honour the graduating class of 2018, and acknowledge their hard work and determination.
Political leaders, education administrators and faculty members showered praise on the students, and offered them words of advice to carry into the next phase of their lives.
"Graduation signifies a major change for you, and validates that you are capable adults ready for new challenges beyond high school," principal Lynne Beck told the graduates.
This was a particularly difficult year for Diamond Jenness, said Beck.
She choked back tears as she recalled the losses of an educator and a graduating student.
"Don't sit back waiting for life to happen," said Beck.
"Spend your life doing, exploring, learning, sharing, figuring out what makes you happy, and then sharing that happiness with those you love."
Chief Roy Fabian of K'atlodeeche First Nation urged the students not to forget where they come from.
"This is home," said Fabian.
"This is where you belong, and the people sitting out here are your people, that's something really important for you to remember."
Teacher Chuck Lirette, the guest speaker, offered a fun fact about this year's graduating class: of the 28 students on stage, 19 completed all of their formal education in Hay River.
Lirette cracked jokes and shared anecdotes involving the students before dispensing with his "final lesson, ever" for the class of 2018.
"Every person has a story," he said.
"Take the time to listen and to learn from the life experiences of others."
Valedictorian Fiona Huang thanked teachers for their kindness and support.
"Although some of us are unsure about what we're going to do in the future, we should all keep in mind to not be afraid to attempt anything we want to achieve," said Huang.
"In life, there are very few mistakes that can't be corrected."