POLACCA, Ariz. — Sixteen students graduated during the mid-term ceremony Dec. 21 in the Hopi High School auditorium, with approximately 150 family, friends, teachers and staff in attendance.
A reception of graduation cake and punch followed in the commons area.
The 16 students who earned their diplomas were Keon Adams, Juwan Brown, Shyla Chee, Lorin Harris, Velentino James, Mykl Mahle, Raymond Martinez, Arthur Masawytewa, Austin Masayesva, April Panana, Ferrisa Satala, Jalen Scott, Shyla Sieweyumptewa, Gabriel Tewawina, Issac Torivio and Tracey Whitehair.
Hopi High Principal Lynn Fredericks said it was a great day because the students met the graduation requirements and reached a symbol of their independence. She told them that they can ask themselves “Where do I go from here?”
Fredericks told the graduates that she is proud of them.
“It took hard work to get here and for some it took longer, but you persevered on this long journey,” she said. “You have different milestones. Think of it as short races that you have to overcome”
Fredericks said while these students didn’t graduate with their class, they didn’t let that stop them.
“This is an achievement that is important in your life. Set more goals,” she said.
Fredericks told the graduates that she hopes their goals will include higher education whether it’s at a university, a two year college or a trade school.
“Reflect because you are all successful,” she said. “Life is short little races. Reach one goal and set another.”
Fredericks praised the parents for their values and encouraging their children to keep working toward their graduation. She praised the educators who were there every day to teach and encourage the students.
“As they say, it takes a whole community,” she said.
Lacretia Ellsworth, senior academic counselor at Hopi High, told the graduates she is proud of the students’ knowledge and commitment to graduation.
Ellsworth also read a letter from Farron “Gato” Lomakema, director of Hopi High’s alternative program. Ellsworth told the graduates he has seen them struggle and soar, smile and frown. He urged them in the letter to never give up their dreams.
Pete Butler, special education interim director at Hopi High School, praised the graduates and urged them to commit themselves to success after high school.
Hopi Junior High Principal Alban Naha told the graduates they made it. He said at least two of his former students were graduating.
“These students touched my heart and the staff is proud of you,” he said.
Naha said their future will come from their passion, which comes in all different shapes and sizes.
“Sometimes it’s gradual and sometimes it’s like a Mack Truck,” he said. “Your real life begins now. You will make the most of it. I have faith in all of you. You’re always welcome here. This is your home; your community.”
Hopi High Dean of Students Jerry Cronin congratulated the graduates and added he was proud of them.
“Keep the light shining,” he said.
Cronin recounted how some tried to convince the graduates not to reach this level, but they stayed focused and now should be focused on goals to get to the next level.
“You’re closing the book and opening another one,” he said. “Make each day better. See a future...there is so much good you can do in this world.”
Jack Harding, a member of the Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board, said hard work is important and everybody should work together for the good of the whole. He had the students give a shout out to their parents and relatives who helped them reach the milestone of graduation.
“Never forget that these are the first ones there when there are obstacles or troubles,” he said.
Harding told the audience that Santa Claus recently want to all the elementary schools on Hopi telling the students about the need for respect.
“We need to respect earth and everything,” he said. “I expect all good things from all of you.”
Fredericks said words cannot describe the happiness she has from seeing these students graduate, since she taught at least five of them. She told the graduates to remember their heritage and that they have a bright future for their people.
“Your culture will make you stand out I hope you can come back and let us know how successful your life has become,” she said.
Fredericks recounted how Hopi High graduates have become doctors, engineers and nurses.
“I swell up with pride of our graduates who have had great accomplishments. That’s what we live for as educators,” she said.