Milestones and Memories: Class of 2024 graduation ceremony

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News
The class of 2024 wore their traditional regalia during Tulalip Heritage High School’s graduation ceremony, held for the first time at the Gathering Hall on Wednesday, June 5. The momentous occasion brought together hundreds of friends, family members, and community supporters, united in a shared display of support for the 21graduates’ achievements.

As the event commenced, a group of students gathered at the entrance to sing an opening song for the graduates, followed by an uplifting performance of Tulalip culture bearers leading the students into the event. Holding the ceremony in Tulalip offered the students and attendees a meaningful opportunity to celebrate and display their diverse cultural heritage. They proudly displayed their traditions by wearing cedar hats, shawls embellished with co-Salish designs, and unique ribbons featuring money and treats.

The student-selected speaker, Tia Pinzon, a respected trauma-informed counselor for Heritage, delivered a heartfelt speech. Her words were a testament to the students, staff, and parents’ immense efforts and recognition of the collective support that guided them through their journey.

“Being uplifted and uplifting others is a crucial part of our growth and success, and it affirms our existence,” Pinzon shared. “If someone says you can’t make it, remember they don’t know your truth. They don’t see your resilience and power. Your ancestors know who you really are and what you are capable of.”

Pinzon concluded her address by encouraging the students to embrace this moment of growth and new experiences. She emphasized the importance of putting in their best efforts and stated, “If college is the next step you want to take, then you definitely belong there.” 

Damon Pablo, a member of the 2024 graduating class, played a pivotal role in bringing the graduation ceremony to the Gathering Hall. Reflecting on their efforts, Damon remarked, “I was a part of the crew that went to the board room and made it so the future generations could come to the Gathering Hall and have their ceremony here and graduate in their homeland. It’s awesome and a great privilege.”

Damon continued, “It’s a crazy feeling to be graduating. I couldn’t feel it until I arrived at the building and walked under the cedar arch. Now that school is over, I plan to take a year off and consider attending college somewhere.” 

After reflecting on their journey and the significance of graduating at the Gathering Hall, several students shared their thoughts on the milestone and their plans for the future.

“It feels great to be a graduate,” said Hazen Shopbell Jr. “Having our graduation at the Gathering Hall has been excellent. We fought hard to get the ceremony there; seeing it come to reality is fantastic. My plans for the future are to go to EvCC and study electrical engineering.”

Chano Guzman remarked, “It feels free being done and out of high school. Now, I can move on to bigger and better things. I plan on going to Wyoming to attend WyoTech and learn to be a mechanic.”  

As the evening ended, there was a feeling of accomplishment and excitement for the future. The Class of 2024 celebrated their academic achievements, honored their cultural identity, and set the stage for future generations to carry on this tradition. As they move on to the next chapter of their lives, the memories of this historic graduation ceremony will remind them of their strength and unity as members of the Tulalip community.