Suquamish Tribe's celebration honors grads

SUQUAMISH — The setting couldn’t have been more perfect for Suquamish’s annual end of the year celebration and graduate honoring ceremony. The sun was shining brightly on the sparkling shores of Puget Sound as Suquamish tribal members from eight Washington high schools and three colleges were honored at Kiana Lodge Wednesday evening.

“This celebration has been going on for at least seven or eight years,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. “I think the best part of this is seeing all of the families get together. It’s an opportunity to have an intimate ceremony with our gradates.”

Forsman has lived in the area his entire life and graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1979. As such, he said he thoroughly enjoys seeing Suquamish tribal members and their family members receive recognition for graduating from high school and college.

“We have several generations of family members attending the celebration tonight. This is a rite of passage for these graduates,” he said. “We reflect on our culture’s heritage. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on our kids’ lives so far.”

Forsman said having high school graduates and college graduates attain the recognition together is done by design.

“We like for high school students to see our college graduates. It lets them know they can do it,” he said. “We want to get them exposed to college as much as we can.”

NKHS graduate Lauren Stultz said the honoring ceremony was a special event for the both tribe and its graduates.

“It’s a lot different than the high school ceremony. Here we celebrate with people we’ve grown up with since we were kids,” she said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Fellow high school graduate Cheayvone Lawrence agreed.

“It’s awesome to celebrate with my family, with people of my culture,” she said. “We all accomplished something great and because of that, we’re honored at this celebration.”

Proud parent Marjorie Lawerence said the individual recognition the tribe gives its graduates is tradition but noted that every event is special.

“We always have honored our students. Education is important to our people,” she said. “We like to recognize each of our student’s milestones.”

Betty Pasco knows all about these milestones. She was present at the celebration, honoring her grandson William George for graduating from the University of Washington.

“He’s my first grandson to graduate from college,” she said. “He’s going to succeed in whatever he chooses to do in the future.”

High school graduates receiving recognition included Sierra Bakken, Cody Bradwell, Morgan Bradwell, Michelle Charette, Shauna Hoffman, Cheayvone Lawrence, Alyssa Mabe, Andrea Nellenbach-Mabe, Robert Purser III, Ronald Purser Jr., Denita Santos, Lauren Stultz, Sean Surrat, Dietreich Rios and Courtney Trask.

In addition, college graduates Denise Clark (Leigh Carbon Community College), William George (University of Washington) and Solange Perrot (City University) were honored for their achievements.

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