Graduation banquet celebrates Class of 2021, honors the dream chasers

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“Welcome to our 2021 ceremony to celebrate our graduates,” said Chief Administrative Officer Rochelle Lubbers as she greeted the hundreds of family and friends who ventured to the Tulalip Resort on June 15. “We’re so excited to have you all here and our hearts are beyond full to be in the same room with our community.

“Reflecting on all our beautiful students today, I thought about all the different journeys they have taken to get here, and how each journey is unique and special. Not a single one had the same walk, but there are some commonalities that they experienced being seniors during a global pandemic. They experienced distance learning and all the challenges with technology that came with that. However, what I’m most impressed with is they exemplified perseverance. Our students overcome these challenges and pushed through in whatever way they had to in order graduate. For that, their entire Tribe is proud of them and that’s why we’re here to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment.”

The celebratory atmosphere was palpable in the Orca Ballroom, where a last minute venue change from the outdoor Amphitheatre meant the hopes and dreams aplenty from the Class of 2021 could be properly presented with a stylish graduation banquet. 

A whopping seventy-four high school seniors, accompanied by their loved ones, convened to commemorate the rite of passage. There were traditional songs sang and drummed, opportunities to immortalize the occasion with a visit to the extra-large photo booth, a decadent buffet-style dinner, and plenty of motivational words offered from Tulalip’s next generation of leaders.

One emphatic message that was repeated throughout the night from graduates, parents and elders alike was a reminder to the praise worthy 18-year-olds that receiving a high school diploma is only the first major milestone on their journey to manifest their dreams into reality. For some the dream may be finding a convenient job to establish independence via a one bedroom apartment, or joining the Tribe’s next TERO vocational training center class in order to enter the construction trades. There are those newly minted adults who are far too eager to start a family of their own, and there are a few who never thought they’d graduate high school and having achieved the seemingly impossible are in search of what the next step is. 

Then there are the awe-inspiring dream chasers. The type of high school grads who aren’t satisfied with just the one diploma. They want more; more education, more diplomas, and more experiences than what can be found within the boundaries of Snohomish County or the Tulalip Reservation. These individuals intend to redefine the expectations of success as it pertains to Native Americans and the education system. 

Like, homegrown Tulalip tribal members Keyondra Horne, graduate of Marysville Getchell, and Desmond Valencia, graduate of Marysville Pilchuck. They were chosen as Class of 2021 student speakers and shared heartfelt words to the Ballroom crowd.

“I didn’t write an elaborate speech, instead wanted to share from the heart,” said Keyondra from the podium. “High school was really hard in the beginning. Getting used to the pace and how teachers don’t wait on individual students to catch up. Instead, they teach the lessons and it’s expected for us to learn quickly and complete our homework the same day. But after a while, I found a rhythm that worked for me and started looking forward to learning new things.

“Now that’s my inspiration moving forward, to travel around, explore the world and continue learning new things. Tulalip will always be our home. It’s okay to leave home for a while and travel new places to experience what the world has to offer,” she added. Keyondra plans to do just that as she will be attending Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts this fall.

 Meanwhile, Desmond shared how he really struggled his first two years of high school because of a bad mindset. He admitted to being stubborn, not prioritizing his school work, and only doing the bare minimum because college wasn’t an option. Then everything changed during his junior year after taking up his Native Advocates Doug Salinas and Matt Remle on their offer to tour Washington State University.  

“I remember meeting Native college students there. They spoke so passionately about their educational pursuits and how by improving themselves they could eventually return to their reservations and improve their tribal communities,” Desmond recalled. “They sparked something in me that day, a burning desire to be better. When I returned home from that trip I made my education the highest priority. My grades improved dramatically and by the end of the year was getting all A’s. I participated in multiple clubs at school including JROTC and DECA to bolster my high school resume. I’m proud to say that my hard work has paid off and I’ll be attending W.S.U. next year.”

Becoming leaders of the present may seem like a daunting task to most 18-year-olds who have grown accustomed to a daily consistency and a comfortable support system provided by a public K-12 education. However, for Native youth, they’ve been bucking the trend and blazing new paths to academic success for years now without even realizing it. They’ve overcome long odds that said they wouldn’t earn a high school diploma and broken down barriers that prevented previous generations from attending college.

For some students, their ability to thrive in the public school system and graduate high school with top honors meant not only proving the doubters wrong, but also proving their ancestors right. The right for future generations to be educated and have the ability to pursue a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate Degree was something previous tribal leaders fought and sacrificed for. Their vision comes true every time a Tulalip citizen boldly ventures off to a University armed with strength of culture and a tribe’s worth of support. 

Kanum Parker doesn’t reside in Tulalip, nor anywhere even close. He lives all the way in San Antonio, Texas. Half a country away and yet he’s always felt the pull of his people. In fact, he had a diamond studded necklace made featuring the Tulalip orca and his family name ‘Parker’ so that wherever he goes, his tribe does too. Kanum graduated at the top of his class at Central Catholic High School. Described by his educators as an ambitious and determined young man that demonstrates self-awareness while unselfishly giving back to his community, Kanum was awarded one of the two coveted Tulalip Senior Student of the Year scholarships.

“I’m happy beyond belief to be here today with my Tulalip family because we’re all brothers and sisters connected through culture,” declared the Texas resident and soon-to-be Baylor University undergrad after being awarded the scholarship. “My education is everything because my dream is to be a doctor. I want to become an Anesthesiologist, and that means another 8-12 years of school. It’s important for us [as Native Americans] to get educated because it’s something that can never be taken away, no matter where you go.”

The second Tulalip Senior Student of the Year scholarship winner is the instrument toting, A.P. class tutoring, Associates Degree earning, and proud Tulalip Youth Council member, Evelyn Vega-Simpson. The typical high school class load wasn’t enough for Evelyn, so she participated in Running Start and earned two full years of college credit as well as her diploma. She’s mentored classmates, fellow Tulalip youth, and other Native students in her role with Urban Native Education Alliance. Her educators say she’s provided an abundance of examples of her stellar leadership, work ethic, brilliance, compassion, patience, and exceptional commitment to improving both herself and the world around her. Evelyn has earned many accolades and scholarly achievements, but what stands out most is her humility and willingness to embrace challenges and new learning opportunities.

She’ll have plenty of challenges to embrace and opportunities to learn as she is taking her talents across the pond to pursue a career as a medical professional at the University of Nottingham, located in England. 

“I feel really proud of myself because I’ve been working so hard over the past four years. Whether it was taking advanced high school classes or college courses through Running Start, my goal has always been to do better than I did last quarter,” shared Evelyn, a rare dual graduate of both Marysville Pilchuck and Everett Community College. “Even when I was much younger my dream was to travel abroad and use my education to get me places that most people wouldn’t consider possible. Now it’s coming true. My education will be taking me to the University of Nottingham. I want to thank my support system of family, friends, and teachers who motivated and supported me. Their support made it possible for me to keep challenging myself and embrace new experiences even when I felt I lacked the courage.” 

The graduation banquet culminated in a ballroom’s worth of support hooting and hollering as each graduation strutted down a red carpet to a podium where education staff and school district representatives awaited. All seventy-four graduates were wrapped in a stunning wool blanket titled ‘Tribute’ from Native owned company, Eighth Generation.

Congratulations to all those Tulalip students who put in the hard work and dedication to earn their high school diploma. The hard work isn’t over now that you have graduated. This is just the beginning as you all prepare for new opportunities and unanticipated challenges waiting in life’s next chapter.

Heritage rewrites history books with 31 graduates

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Dreams came true, legacies were continued, and history was rewritten on June 11 as thirty-one graduating seniors received their well-deserved diplomas at Tulalip Heritage’s high school commencement. Thirteen years of dedicated K-12 schooling came to fruition in an astonishing way for Heritage’s class of 2021 – the most graduates ever in a single academic year.

This particular group of graduates overcame a global pandemic, untold personal hardships, and a litany of other difficulties that came with a senior year unlike any other. Their determination to accumulate the twenty-four academic credits necessary to complete high school was bolstered in large part to by their steadfast support system at home and in the classroom.

“These thirty-one graduates earned their way here through hard work, commitment and perseverance,” explained Principal Kelli Miller. “This was not the senior year we planned and certainly not the one we hoped for. Maybe they needed additional support, extra do-overs, a gentle push or a nagging phone call, but nevertheless they did what was necessary to reach their graduation goal and they deserve a huge congratulations for that. They didn’t get here because of Covid, they got here in spite of Covid. I couldn’t be more proud of this graduating class.

 “Thank you to the family, friends and countless community members who have walked this journey with our graduating seniors,” she continued. “I congratulate each of you because I know these students wouldn’t be here today without the time and energy you all invested in them. Most importantly, thank you for trusting us with your children. It’s truly the highest honor and greatest gift that you can give us educators is the trust to educate and guide your children.”

The thirty-one seniors rewrote the history books not just for managing to prioritize their schoolwork during a pandemic, but also for being the largest Tulalip Heritage High School graduating class ever. One after another the students, adorned with ceremonial garb like intricately woven Cedar caps and beaded medallions, proudly strutted across Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium for the last time to accept their coveted diploma. In doing so, they were fulfilling the legacy of the gym’s namesake.

Sheldon, who passed away in 2002, was a revered leader best known for his life’s mission to create opportunities for Native youth to excel in school and sports. According to his family, he wanted Tulalip children to always strive to be better and be given agency to fully embrace their culture. Even though he was not physically present to witness the historical Heritage commencement, there’s no doubt he was there in spirit.

“Francy dreamed of having a school on the reservation where our children could get a quality education and learn their culture,” said his wife of forty-three years, Anita ‘Keeta’ Sheldon. “He’d be so proud of these graduates for completing their high school education in Tulalip, and in the process bettering themselves, their families and our society. Seeing the kids wearing their Cedar caps, he’d have loved that.”

The end of high school usually means the end of free public education and free food. It’s the end of sleeping in all summer and, for some, the end of living at home. Receiving a diploma signifies the beginning of adulthood. It’s the beginning of true independence. It’s the beginning of finding a career, finding a place to live and perhaps pursuing additional education. The future is now full of possibility and wonder for Heritage’s latest graduates. 

“This is the day we’ve all been waiting for since our first day of Kindergarten,” shared class representative and student speaker Krislyn Parks. “We, the graduating class of 2021, want to give a special thanks to all the teachers that have helped us every step the way, even when we were too stubborn or hardheaded to accept it. You all never gave up on us and words can’t explain how much we appreciate you because of that. Heritage is our home away from home. The teachers, office staff, lunch ladies, coaches and custodial workers took care of us in our best and worst moments. You all guided us, educated us, and showed us how to work together despite our differences, just like a loving family. 

“Being a Heritage Hawk has changed my life forever,” she added. “Everyone at Heritage is my family and all my fellow classmates hold a special place in my heart. Now, as I stand here thinking about the past four years, I’m already viewing my high school experience differently. I may not remember all the class periods and homework assignments nor the answers to every test, but I know we will always remember the amazing memories and friendships that we’ve made. We can always draw strength from knowing Heritage will always be our home. Whatever we do and wherever we go, we will always be Heritage Hawks!”

A roaring applause erupted when Krislyn instructed her classmates to move their tassels from right to left, indicating graduation. Upon exiting their home away from home, a stunning rainbow greeted them. The future is bright in Tulalip. 

‘A step in the right direction’: Tulalip Tribes flag raised at Marysville Pilchuck

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For quite possibly the first time ever, the red, white and black colors of the Tulalip Tribes are flying overhead at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Tulalip’s iconic orca was raised up on June 7 by tribal member and student representative Desmond Valencia during a celebratory gathering of M.P. students and staff, as well as a coalition of Native representatives with drum-in-hand.

“The moment was surreal and there’s really no words to describe it,” said Desmond after he raised the flag to a traditional drum beat. “I was super nervous, but stepped out of my comfort zone to seize the opportunity to represent my people and my family. It’s a huge honor to be the first person to raise the flag and it felt good to see it flying as I walked to class today. It was definitely a good day to be Native.”

It’s no secret that Marysville and Tulalip have a history rife with conflict and misunderstanding, especially when it comes to the subject of education. However, raising the Tulalip flag is a symbol of hope for the future. It’s an action that intends to create a better partnership between the two communities.

“ This is a step in the right direction,” declared cultural specialist Chelsea Craig as the gathering’s first speaker. “Marysville and Tulalip, we are one community. We stand on the traditional lands of the Snohomish people right now, and by raising this flag we are healing the story of education for our community.”

Principal Christine Bell made it a mission of hers to make this day happen. Seeing this united effort through from start to finish, in collaboration with Native advocate Doug Salinas and Native liaison Matt Remle, allows a more diverse student body to feel accepted and proudly celebrate their culture.

“It’s very important to me as a principal that all of our students see themselves in their school and for as long as I’ve been here we’ve worked hard to make it that way,” shared Principal Bell. “My thanks go out to the Tulalip Tribes for allowing this to happen. We share a desire to have our students feel accepted for who they are. School culture is what you celebrate and choose to reinforce. If we’re not celebrating our Tulalip students, then we are doing this wrong.”

For all Principal Bell has done to uplift Tulalip students and culture during her M.P. tenure she was blanketed in true Native fashion.

“What a blessing to be honored and blanketed in that way. It means the world to me to be able to make this flag raising happen. This is a day I won’t ever forget,” she said. She also announced that in addition to the flag at the entrance of the school, there will be two more used for display during school events.  

Among the crowd of event observers was a beaming Tulalip tribal member, 18-year-old Martelle Richwine.  

“As a former Tomahawk, it warms my heart to see Marysville Pilchuck open their eyes to our Native community,” said the class of 2021 graduate. “When I was a student I felt that I wouldn’t be accepted as a Native American, but to know that M.P. now cares means the world because current and incoming Native students can feel comfortable in their own skin.”

“After this defining moment, I believe that the Marysville/Tulalip partnership can only go up from here,” added Desmond, a fellow graduating senior who plans on attending WSU in the fall. “One of my goals is to get more involved in tribal events and do my part in bettering our community. After I finish college, I would definitely love to come back and continue to see the relationship thrive.”

By adding the Tulalip flag to the same pole that holds the United States and Washington State flags, Marysville Pilchuck recognizes Tulalip’s sovereignty as an Indigenous nation and acknowledges that the best way forward is in partnership, one step at a time. 

Interactive Lushootseed app aims to teach kids traditional sduhubš language

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Apps play a key role in today’s technology-led society. Whether you are catching up with your pals on social media, staying up-to-date on current world events and local news, killing time with addictive smart phone games, or listening to some good tunes, audiobooks or podcasts, as the now trademarked-by-Apple-saying goes, there’s an app for that. 

In Tulalip, apps are important to the modern-day Indigenous business owner, artist, musician, and student. Tribal casino or government employees can easily swipe through a selection of apps to complete their everyday tasks, increase productivity, practice good communication skills by means of e-mails, text messaging, social media posts or Zoom meetings, and can even keep up with the latest community happenings by checking out Tulalip News on the Facebook app or the Tulalip TV app. 

The youth of today are masters of technology. Learning how to navigate phones and tablets at a young age, kids are now utilizing apps to enhance their educational journey, and often use a number of apps to complete their school projects from research to creation to presentation. Apps are proving to be essential learning tools. A newly released app was created with the kids in mind, to engage the future generations of Tulalip with the traditional language of their ancestors in a fun, exciting and interactive way. 

Now available, wherever you download your favorite apps, is a software application like none-other, known as Our Table. Brought to you by a collaboration between the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department and the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the app is set-up in a game-style format to teach Tulalip’s youngest generation the dialect of Lushootseed that was known throughout the Snohomish territory since time immemorial. 

“Culturally, that’s one of the things that’s always been done,” explained Dave Sienko, Lushootseed Media Developer. “Things are done around the kitchen table, families get together and they talk and share. That’s kind of what the app is trying to convey.”

The first-of-its-kind language learning app, Our Table is centered around one of the major traditional lifeways of the Tulalip people, nourishment. Bringing ancient words and phrases into the modern world, the kids are not only able to hear the pronunciation of words like spiqʷuc (potato), biac (meat), qʷagʷəb ləpəskʷi (cookie), as well as many other tasty foods, they also learn the names of immediate family members such as tsi sk̓ʷuy  (mother) and ti bad (father). 

The object of the game is to share food with your family. At the start of the game, you choose two different foods and one family member. The family member then asks for one of the two items, and it is up to you to deliver the correct plate of food to the table. 

“All too often we talk about our kids having too much screen time,” Dave stated. ”Most of the time, screen time is considered by oneself, but this app encourages the connections between family members; between grandparents and grandkids, parents and kids, siblings – just sharing the culture together.” 

By learning the Lushootseed word for each of relative, the kids can ask a member of their family to play along in the app’s two-player ‘Talk to Your Partner’ mode, where they can properly address the other player and share the correct food item that they are requesting – entirely in Lushootseed. You are rewarded one star for every correct food item that is shared and once you reach ten stars, you unlock a hidden-bonus-round where you command your character to collect as many berries as fast as they can and place them in a cedar-woven basket.

Said Dave, “That was one of the things that was the primary focus of the app, make it very interactive and fun so it’s not just a click-and-listen. You physically need to do something, drag items here and there, and you need to do it correctly, that’s how you get points. It has a reward element to it too, especially for the younger kids, but it’s fun for all ages, you hear the fun, light music and you have to get the different berries. That’s one of the things that’s fantastic about the app is that yeah, you’re getting the different berries, but it’s also telling you what type of berries they are as an award, whether that’s t̕aqa (salalberry) or stəgʷad (salmonberry).”

  This recent app development is just the latest endeavor from the two programs who have collaborated many times in the past to ensure the kids are hearing and learning the vernacular of their people. The academy invited the Lushootseed Language Warriors into their classrooms to share words, songs and stories with the students on a regular basis, in what is known as the academy’s Language Immersion Curriculum. The kids become familiarized with the verb-based language at a young age, and can further build upon that foundation throughout their entire educational experience. 

“I believe that our children need to know from the youngest ages who they are,” said Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “Research says, if they are totally connected to who they are as birth to five children, they’re going to be more successful in their lifetime because they have that solid sense of self. We really want to build that connection between our language and culture. We want to share that value; I think that the Lushootseed Department does a great job of sharing that value. We want our families to have an opportunity to learn Lushootseed too, with our kids.”

The app was officially released on Google Play (previously the Android Market) in September of 2020 and on the Apple App Store in February of this year. Dave explained that the app took over a year-and-a-half to create and would’ve been here sooner, had it not been for the challenges presented by the global pandemic. However, he assures that this is just the start of Our Table and hopes to routinely update the app and add on additional features and realms outside of the kitchen. Dave also wants to provide in-app links that forward the user to the Tulalip Lushootseed website, where the kids can hear traditional songs and stories that correlate to the round in their current game. 

Many Lushootseed Warriors can be heard throughout the app as several of the teachers leant their vocals to the project, enunciating words and phrases for the kids to hear and practice. Dave also wanted to mention that Marysville School District faculty member, David Court, played a major role in the app’s development, as well as TELA director Sheryl Fryberg and Lushootseed Manager, Michele Balagot. 

“To me, the language means that we are speaking what our ancestors used to speak. We are bringing it back,” exclaimed Tulalip Lushootseed Manager, Michele Balagot. “We thought we should be teaching them young because this is when they are developing their brains. If they start hearing Lushootseed from the beginning of their education, they’ll learn the sounds and know some of the words. It’s a very hard language to learn, so it’s rewarding to hear the students speaking it. It’s very important for the kids to carry it on so we don’t lose it.” 

Our Table is available to download on all smart devices and is the perfect app to engage the little ones with the Tulalip culture. Be sure to give-it-a-go at the next family game night or get-together.

Hare-Delivery: TELA students receive books from Easter Bunny

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) has a long-standing relationship with one Peter Cottontail, famously known as the Easter Bunny. For the past six years, the bunny has journeyed to the sduhubš territory to celebrate his favorite holiday with the Academy’s students. For a while, the bunny hosted the Easter Egg-travaganza which featured an egg-hunt and a photoshoot with the kiddos. Recently, beginning over the past couple years, the Easter Bunny and TELA began a new holiday tradition together by gifting the future generations of Tulalip a Native American-themed storybook they can enjoy with their families while learning the lifelong skill of reading. 

“Literacy is important because we want our children to start reading,” said Katrina Lane, TELA Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. “They aren’t able to read on their own right now but if we read to them, they will learn to read even sooner. We also add-in the Native element, so they’re able to see a piece of our culture in reading.” 

Talk about a fun way to get children between the ages of birth to five excited about reading! On the morning of April 1, the last school day before Easter weekend, the bunny began to make his rounds, hopping through the Academy’s hallways and visiting over twenty classrooms. 

The kids could not contain their joy upon seeing the bunny, shouting, ‘Hi Easter Bunny!’ and the, ‘Easter Bunny is here!’ while jumping up and down and rushing to their classroom windows to interact with the famous holiday character. The bunny, who was masked-up, showcased the importance of social distancing by taking health and safety precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which prevented his annual trip to Tulalip last year when the school and Tribal government temporarily shut-down operations. 

Moments prior to the book-delivery, Katrina shared, “Because of COVID we are masked-up and practicing social distancing and so is our bunny. This year he is able to bring them a book and remind them it’s important to wear a mask and to social distance during COVID.”

The children were delighted to receive their gift from the bunny. Some kids immediately began to flip through the pages and others held the book up-high over their heads, thanking the bunny for their new story, which is filled with fun traditional illustrations. This year, the kids took home Black Bear, Red Fox: Colours in Cree by Julie Flett (Cree- Métis) while the infants of the Academy received Black and White: Visual Stimulation Images for Babies by Morgan Asayuf (Tsimshian). TELA purchased the books at the Salal Marketplace giftshop at the Tulalip Resort Casino through a grant awarded to the Academy by the Tulalip Charitable Fund. 

After another successful Easter-themed book-gifting event, TELA is excited to get the literary holiday tradition back on the bunny trail, promoting the magic of reading and hoping to engage their children in the activity both at home and in the classroom to set them up for a bright future. 

Said Katrina, “Most Easter Bunnies deliver candy, our Early Learning Easter Bunny delivers cultural reading books to promote literacy because we feel it’s important to share the love of a good book!”

Tulalip programs unite for expectant mothers and future generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A long-practiced tradition in many Native American cultures has to do cause and effect, decision-making and understanding how an action taken today can have an impact on the quality of life for our people in the future. Through the seven-generation principle, tribes nationwide are making positive changes within their community whether it be educational, economic, cultural, financial, or health-based, keeping in mind our children’s children. And for as far back as many can recall, the ancestors of the Tulalip people have always had their descendants’ best interest in mind, keeping the lifeways of the people alive during a time when cultural identities were being stripped away by forced assimilation. 

“The babies are the future of this community, of the world in general,” expressed Michelle Cooper, Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Infant/Toddler Specialist. “I think it’s important to make sure that we’re supporting them as best we can, as well as their parents and their families. We want to make sure everybody feels comfortable and knows we’re a team. Like they say, it takes a village; and I think it’s important to continue that on.”

Keeping true to the seven-generation principal, several departments within the Tulalip Tribes have provided services for the youth of the community for years, starting from birth and extending past high school, ensuring the children are presented with many opportunities to learn about the traditions of their people as well as succeed in their journey from adolescence into adulthood. But what many may not know is there are multiple departments within the Tribe that also help soon-to-be Tulalip tribal members, offering services to expectant mothers before, during and after the birthing process. 

For instance, Tulalip Family Haven hosts a weekly hangout specifically for the mothers at Tulalip called Mom’s Group. Pre-COVID times, the group sessions allowed local moms the space to reflect, share ideas, create crafts with their children, take part in a clothing exchange and receive incentives such as car seats and diapers in bulk. Mom’s Group also warmly welcomed first-time pregnant mothers to discuss what to expect as a new mom and express any emotions they may be going through so other moms could in-turn relate and offer words of advice to help her work through any struggle she may be facing. Throughout the past year as we navigated the pandemic, Mom’s Group continued to gather on a weekly basis via the Facebook messenger app.

“We are a support group that allows mothers and women raising kids the opportunity to come together,” said Sasha Smith, Tulalip Family Haven’s Family and Youth Support Coordinator and Mom’s Group moderator. “We wish to provide a sense of belonging, a sense that there’s other women in our community to support each other, a place where we can come and just talk about motherhood and ask questions that are hard to ask your doctor or anybody in your family. They’re able to open up and just have a healthy discussion about childbirth and raising your children.”

 She continued, “We are still continuing on with Moms Group, virtually. We’re able to do it over Facebook, we still meet every Tuesday from 11 (AM) to Noon. We just drop-in for about 5-10 minutes, we make sure there’s some kind of lesson. It’s amazing to see that they still have those strong connections with each other and that they still really enjoy showing up every Tuesday and having that time with their friends on Zoom.”

The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, commonly referred to as TELA, has also stayed in touch with their students and families throughout the pandemic. During normal school years, the academy routinely held workshops for expecting parents that focused on the importance of early childhood development and worked with the parents, helping them get situated and ready for the new baby. TELA recently resumed in-school instruction again, but are not back to full capacity as of yet, and are still offering Zoom lessons to a handful of students. 

Said TELA Director, Sheryl Fryberg, “Right now, TELA is doing a lot of Zoom meetings with our children and families. We are only providing direct services to up to 75% of our students, I think we maybe have, more realistically, about 60-65%. And then with the rest of the students, the teachers do Zooms with them and provide activity packets, so they’re still receiving educational services from us. We want to provide all the support that we can, and especially with our young moms and just moms in general, they need support when they’re isolated and not seeing their families. We want to always  make sure that they know that we’re here for them.” 

Another department that assists pregnant mothers and new families is Tulalip Community Health, through the birth equity grant. 

“I am a Community Health nurse, as my primary role, and I have an background in OB,” explained Morgan Peterson, Tulalip Community Health Nurse. “I’ve been a part of the birth equity grant which is focused on improving birth outcomes for pregnant women and the young children that they have. So, in my role, I try to focus on the nursing portion of it, case management of at-risk pregnant women and those young babies that have had NICU stays, being a hospital liaison for them.”

Added Shayleigh Tucker, Tulalip Community Health Advocate, “I really like to call it a doctor translator.  We are able to be the in-between, between the community language and the language that providers are using, and explain what they’re doing. We also work with people’s care teams to get them the best suitable care available. We were going to medical appointments with people before COVID. Right now, patient advocacy looks a lot more like helping our community members feel empowered in their prenatal care, it’s a lot more text and call-based.”

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, these departments have remained readily available to expectant mothers and have continued offering their services and resources. And now, taking it a step further, they are combining forces to reach even more people within the community who may not know what they have to offer new moms and young families, as well as to better serve their current clientele. 

“Our plan for the new group, MCHC, is to establish a monthly parent education discussion group,” said Family Haven Manager, Alison Bowen. “Our plan, for now, is Zoom education for the community. MCHC stands for Maternal Child Health Committee and the purpose of this group is to bring together all the different Tulalip entities that are working with families with young children, up to age five. Since we’re all serving these families in different ways, we thought why don’t we all come together, find out what families we’re serving and not serving, what might be some problem areas where we can improve, what additional outreach we can do, as well as using our funds and our knowledge in the best way, so we’re not duplicating services, but building on each other’s strengths.”

Officially kicking-off in February, MCHC will host a class once-a-month through Zoom, offering information to expectant mothers and their families and also providing any resources or services they might require. Originally a concept that formulated in the library of old Tulalip elementary school, roughly six years ago, between TELA and Family Haven, the idea has now come to fruition and MCHC members are excited about the new collaborative venture.

“I’m excited about the cohesiveness between all of us coming together,” Morgan stated. “And also, for the families to also see that we’re all united, working on the same things to support everybody, their children and their families.”

“I like this collaboration that we have going on,” said TELA Birth to Three Assistant Manager, Marci Vela. “There’s a lot of resources that our pregnant moms might not know they have access to, and they kind of lose out on those services. This is a good way to let them know they have the support of all of us as a community.”

The once-a-month MCHC classes will have a new theme every session and each department will take turns with the hosting duties, in which they will include an educational component as well as some fun activities. The participants will also get the chance to receive incentives, ask questions, address any of their fears or concerns, as well as connect with other mothers and discuss the few challenges and many successes that come with being a new mom. 

MCHC has a number of ideas for the upcoming classes including a Father’s Day event, doula training, and lactation and feeding education.

“I am a certified lactation educator and provide lactation and feeding support for infants and young children,” said Tulalip Child Health Educator, Erika Queen. “Pretty much any way of feeding an infant and child, I’m happy to help with.”

With the establishment of the MCHC, Family Haven, TELA, Community Health and beda?chelh are creating a better tomorrow for the future generations of Tulalip, not only by taking care of their soon-to-be membership before birth, but also ensuring that the mothers are in a healthy state -mentally, emotionally, and physically during the early stages of the beautiful journey known as motherhood.  More details will begin to arrive in the upcoming weeks as MCHC gears up for their very first Zoom event, happening this February. Stay tuned to Tulalip News for more information and help spread the word to those who could benefit from the services, education and resources provided by the Maternal Child Health Committee. 

Sasha expressed, “We’re such a close-knit community, most people know each other and everybody’s intertwined in family. I think it’s important to have an additional outlet. Yes, you can go to your aunties and to your grandmas to get advice, but sometimes it’s refreshing to come together and gain that knowledge and support from your peers. To help them understand that they’re all going through similar things and that they can get through whatever it is they’re going through together.”

Congratulations to our 2020 High School Students of the Year

Submitted by Jessica Bustad 

Each year the Tulalip Education Division honors students at the Annual Graduation Banquet. This year, we did not get the normal banquet and opportunity to honor all of our seniors who worked so hard to finish the last of their high school career during a pandemic. 

At the end each school year we give an opportunity for students to apply for Tulalip Senior Boy & Girl of the Year and also just recently, the Indian Education Parent Committee Student of the Year. With delays and organizing during a pandemic, we are happy to close the year out with the official winner’s announcement.

2020 Tulalip Senior Girl of the Year: Chelsea Orr

Chelsea graduated from Lakewood High School with a 3.95 GPA.  Chelsea excelled academically, took on several leadership roles and was a star athlete.  Chelsea is attending Washington State University, studying Human Development and plans to become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. 

2020 Tulalip Senior Boy of the Year: Tal “TJ” Severn

Tal graduated from Marysville Pilchuck High School with a 3.87 GPA. Tal was a 4-year Honor Roll student, while taking A.P. and college level courses. He was a start athlete and spent time supporting his community. Tal is attending Washington State University and plans to major in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Sciences so that he can return to Tulalip and work for Natural Resources.

2020 Indian Education Parent Committee student of the year: Marisa Joseph 

Marisa graduated from Marysville Pilchuck High School with a 3.97 GPA while taking A.P. courses. Marisa excelled academically and also contributed to her Tulalip Community. Marisa served on the Tulalip Youth Council with a strong focus on suicide prevention. Marisa is currently attending Dartmouth College and plans to double major in Government and Native American students to eventually become a Tribal Lawyer. 

Congratulations to our three students of the year. You are outstanding role models for our community and we look forward to watching your journey of growth, determination and success. 

We hope that all of our graduates are doing well and working towards their life goals. Obstacles are inevitable, but possibilities are endless. Honor your roots and never give up. The Tulalip Education Division, Leaders and Community are cheering for you all. 

Tulalip distance learning sites promote student achievement

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Washington State is home to over one million public school students. According to the Seattle Times, 94.4% of these students have begun the 2020-2021 school year not in the classroom nor with any in-person interactions with their devoted teachers. Instead, nearly all of Washington’s public school districts have gone all-in with a virtual teaching concept designed to minimize spread of coronavirus – Distance Learning.

Defined as any form of remote education where the student is not physically present for the lesson, distance learning is the default safety net for education in the age of COVID. Thanks largely to the power of the internet, educators are able to teach their carefully crafted lesson plans via a computer screen and video cam to their young learners. This type of learning comes with one major flaw; it’s completely dependent on the students having the access and know-how to operate today’s tech gadgetry and ever-updating software and apps.

Welcome to 2020, where the kingdom of social distancing reigns supreme and access to ample bandwidth is the difference between a student achieving and being irritably stuck on a frozen Zoom screen. 

Fortunately for Tulalip’s K-12 students, they belong to a Tribe who had the foresight to transform the reservation’s largest two youth activity centers into dedicated distance learning sites. In the weeks leading up to the new school year, the Tulalip Teen Center and Boys & Girls Club received critical network upgrades to ensure a high-demand of bandwidth could be sustained, turned typical activity and gaming rooms into spaces that encourage learning, and instituted COVID guidelines such as temperature checks, mask enforcement, and social distancing.

“The health, education and overall success of our students is our top priority. The Tulalip Education Division and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club are working hard to provide support in the safest environment possible,” stated Jessica Bustad, executive director of education. “Together we can ensure that our students begin thriving during these uncertain times. We wrapped up our second full week of Distance Learning and are improving services provided to our students. We are very proud of our young people who are showing up and doing the best they can.”

Change can come into our lives as a result of crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. Being unprepared and resistant to change leads to fear, hostility and a sense of hopelessness. Embracing change and managing all its challenges in a constructive way is key to not only surviving, but thriving in an ever-changing world. 

Adapting to change is what the devoted staff of both distance learning sites and the many young minds who attend on a daily basis exemplify. Primarily accommodating Kindergarten – 5th grade students who require much more attention and emotional reassuring, the usual Boys & Girls Club activities specialists are now de facto educators.

“We are no longer a traditional boys and girls club. We’ve become a school-like learning center,” said Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Club. “We have 98 kids registered and average about 70 kids per day. We separate them by grade level, so 1st graders are together, 2nd graders are together and so on. 

“As a staff, we feel so needed. We’re all learning to navigate this unprecedented time together,” she continued. “We have five different elementary schools represented among our K-5 kids. We do our best to keep up with each student’s daily responsibilities, but there are so few of us and so many of them. It can be overwhelming at times because we know some kids require more one-on-one time, but we have to use our time effectively to do the most good. At the end of the day, we are making a huge impact by creating a safe place for our community’s kids to learn.” 

Adapting to the new tech-centric normal is easier for teens who willingly spend much of their free time with their eyes glued to screens anyway, whether it be a computer, TV, cell phone, tablet or video game. A big obstacle for them is less familiarity with Chromebooks and virtual learning programs and more access to a consistent internet connection. Within the rezzy landscape of Tulalip, stable internet and adequate bandwidth can be difficult to come by under the best of conditions. 

Network upgrades and additional Wi-Fi hot spots at the Teen Center make it a quality alternative for homebound teenagers looking to focus on their school work. Plus, there is support offered by both peers and staff, many of whom are recent graduates of the same Marysville School District curriculum. 

“It’s been pretty cool because there are people here to guide us with our school work when we’re confused and have questions,” shared 9th grader Image Enick. “For those with working parents, there is no one at home to assist with assignments, but here at the Teen Center there are plenty of people we are comfortable with asking questions. I haven’t had any difficulty with my online classes or getting kicked off because of bad internet either.”

“We are so proud of the kids here,” added tribal advocate Courtney Jefferson. “We’ve been averaging 40 to 60 a day. They have been taking the initiative to prioritize their education and haven’t needed to be redirected to engage in their online classes. They’ve been getting themselves into their learning spaces, taking ownership of their rooms here in the building, and being productive with their time.”

The Tulalip distance learning sites continue to adapt and find creative ways to provide additional support to our students. Both locations are a safe space for students to access the internet, connect to WI-FI, or use a desktop. They each provide daily meals as well. Most importantly, the sites allow students to build a routine, with consistent support and resources that effectively promote scholastic achievement.

The Tulalip Education staff are also available to provide support and resources to students who are not currently attending the facilities. Feel free to contact any of the programs if you have additional questions: 

$350 school readiness stipend available to Tulalip’s K-12 students

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It’s barely been two weeks since the Tulalip Tribes announced the availability of COVID impact funding for its K-12 students, and nearly 800 applications have been submitted already. The $350 school readiness stipend is made available as part of the CARES Act, which was signed into law back in March, and is intended to provide critical relief for students as they prepare to start the new school year learning remotely.

“Our tribes are feeling significant strain,” said Senator Martha McSally. “This legislation provides immediate cash relief and strong assistance to tribal communities impacted by this so workers and families can pay their bills. I will continue to work with the Trump Administration to ensure this relief is administered quickly, efficiently and in a manner that works best for tribal communities.”

With all Washington State school districts either recently starting or set to start the 2020-2021 academic year, the uncertainty of resuming education is no more. It’s certain that the routine of daily education is back, but the details of that routine have changed immensely. As a result of COVID-19, Governor Inslee mandated all K-12 public and private schools remain closed to in-person learning and instead institute distance learning solutions. For the vast majority of Tulalip students this means going all digital, all the time from the comforts of home.

For students and their families lacking in the necessary resources to provide an effective learning environment for distance learning, the unexpected opportunity to receive $350 per Tulalip student can be a significant morale boost. 

“Nobody was expecting this money. We’re fortunate the tribe applied for relief funds from a grant to help out our students and it was accepted,” explained Lisa Fryberg, positive youth development advocate. “These funds are intended to go towards school supplies and digital resources to make our children’s learning experience better.”

“Hopefully, all our kids will see this money be used to facilitate a functioning learning environment at their home,” added fellow youth advocate Deyamonta Diaz. “What we hope not to see is this money being viewed as supplemental income and used to purchase items that really don’t prioritize our kids’ education.” 

To create a highly effective learning environment at home, here are some basic essentials local school districts suggest purchasing: a desk or mini table dedicated for an individual student, a reliable internet or WiFi connection to support multiple devices, a comfortable desk chair, personal headphones, a printer with a decent supply of paper and ink, and a white board to be used as a student planner to manage class schedule, homework assignments, and any broader academic goals. Two items left off this essential list are a cheap laptop and webcam because Marysville School District and local private schools issued their students Chomebooks with built-in webcam and internet access.

“As a mother of two students, one in 5th grade and the other in 10th grade, I plan on using their stipends to make sure they each have their own work stations,” said Lisa. “The $350 can purchase a lot if used sensibly. There’s no need to buy everything brand new, at full retail price. I’ve been searching Facebook Marketplace and other reselling apps to find work station essentials.”

With so many applications turned in thus far, and many hundreds more expected in the coming weeks, Youth Services staff request patience and understanding that it takes about two weeks from application processing to stipend mail out. Each check is made out to the individual student and no receipts are required to be submitted after the fact. The deadline to submit a stipend application is October 31.

“I always felt like we took our public school system for granted. Like, there are those who are consistently critical of what public school doesn’t offer or what they lack, but now we get to experience what it’s like not to have this resource and already a lot of people miss what they took for granted, ” reflected Deyamonta, who serves Totem Middle School as a student advocate. “We need the school districts as much as they need us. At least for the next several months, we’ll see how our families and students are able to adapt to a more independent learning environment.”

With many schools across the country closed and operating under remote learning or a hybrid model to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students and their families alike are bracing themselves for a fall semester unlike any other. This makes for quite the back-to-school shopping shakeup. Fortunately, the school readiness stipend can help curb costs and ease the transition to an all-digital, distance learning landscape.

The school readiness stipend application can be found at:

Additional applications can be picked up at the Tulalip Teen Center front desk.