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Tribe honors its high school graduates

SUQUAMISH — Retaining the spirituality of the Native American people while continuing an education inside and outside of the classroom is what tribal elders and others stressed to the Suquamish Tribe’s most recent class of high school graduates last weekend.

In an honoring ceremony at the Suquamish Tribal Gym June 20, families and friends joined to celebrate the achievement of its young members who recently earned their degrees.

“Last year, we had half the graduates,” said Jerome Jainga, the K-12 education program manager for the Suquamish Tribe. “We’re up to 17 graduates that we know about!”

The students, who graduated from the North Kitsap School District’s home-school program PAL and North Kitsap High School were honored with certificates and tribal jackets.

Tribal Elders offered words of wisdom for the young adults who are heading off to various new chapters in their life, including attending Western Washington University or joining the workforce at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino.

“Your learning is not over, you will learn new things every day,” said tribal elder Marilyn Wandrey. “Thank you for what you’ve done and we look forward to see in the future where you go.”

She also advised them to not only look toward tomorrow but also toward their future as well.

“I ask you to close your eyes and go to a quiet place and think about what kind of person you will be — what will you be like?” She challenged them.

Gyasi Ross, a Blackfeet tribal member who is friends with most of the tribal graduates, advised them to listen to the elders.

“It is a huge privilege to listen to these people who know this much,” Ross said. “I wish people had taken the time to talk to me.”

He also noted the importance of spirituality that is embraced by tribal culture.

“The thing to keep in mind is to retain your spiritual base,” Ross said. “You always have something to come back

to.”

Elaina Hayes, who will be attending Olympic College to study culinary arts and become a chef, said she appreciated the support of her family and friends during the difficulties of adolescence.

“It makes you look forward to (graduation) because the family is here to support us,” she said.

Jessica Armstrong, who will be studying forensics at Olympic College and Haskal University, was grateful for the support.

“Knowing that I made it,” she said about the best thing about graduation. “Without my parents for family support, I don’t think I would have made it.”

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