Hard work pays off for Heritage Graduates

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

The atmosphere was charged with anticipation as the graduating class of 2023 from Tulalip Heritage High School eagerly awaited their well-deserved high school diplomas. After countless hours of arduous studying, unwavering commitment, and unyielding dedication, the moment of triumph had arrived. Principal Nathan Plummer took charge, gathering the students for a final practice walk, ensuring they were fully prepared before the seats filled with family members and friends, who eagerly anticipated this joyous occasion.

Sounds of steel drums filled the air as a musical collaboration between the Tulalip Elementary and Heritage High schools kicked off the event. As the music faded away principal Plummer stepped forward to address the graduates and families. “Welcome students, communities, and families, to the graduation ceremony of the first ever Indigenous Big Picture Learning class of the 2023, Tulalip Heritage High school.” 

Special guest Armando Ortiz, of the Native American Initiative Big Picture Learning, presented an award to Devon Johnson, Heritage A.S.B nominated speaker, who had this to say, “we made it through the big shift, into the big picture, where we had to adapt to a new way of learning. Whether we benefitted from it or not, we did go through more than enough to say we definitely grew along the way.”

As speeches wrapped up, graduates looked to the principal with anticipation of receiving their diploma. The crowd cheered and with every student called, family and friends would yell out the name of the graduate as they walked across the stage. Smiles filled the arena as parents took in the momentous occasion.  

“It feels amazing. It feels like all that hard work staying up late to get your work done, all of that, just pays off, man.  As soon as you walk across that stage you feel accomplished,” said Antonio Flores-Howlett of the 2023 graduating class. “I’m looking forward to starting my adult life. I’m looking forward to getting a job, learning how to invest my money smart, and making smart moves with the money I’m getting.” 

When asked what kids just starting high school should know? Antonio remarked, “Stay on top of your grades and do extra work. Try running start if you want the best future possible. If you want a stable future, pass all your classes!” 


Relatives gathered around their graduates as the event was ending. “It feels very exciting,” said Markus Hatch of the 2023 graduating class, “I feel full of happiness and joy; it’s great.” Then he shared his plans for summer. “I’m looking forward to lots of relaxation, sleeping in, enjoying great food, and the heat.” His tips for new high school students was, “It gets better, it may be rough at first, enjoy it, enjoy it all!”

With the culmination of their high school journey, the graduating class of 2023 from Heritage steps onto the threshold of their next chapter in life. A world of boundless possibilities lies ahead. Equipped with the knowledge and experiences gained, this class sets out to craft their own narratives, leaving an everlasting impact on the world they encounter.  

Determination and a Diploma



By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“Welcome to our 2023 ceremony to celebrate our graduates,” said interim CEO Rochelle Lubbers as she greeted the hundreds of family and friends who ventured to the Tulalip Resort on June 20. “We’re so excited to have you all here. Our hearts are beyond full to be in the same room with our community on such a remarkable occasion.

“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 that they exemplified determination. Our students overcame these challenges and pushed through in whatever way they had to in order to graduate. For that, their entire Tribe is proud of them, and that’s why we’re here to celebrate their wonderful accomplishment.”

The triumphant atmosphere was profound in the Resort’s Orca Ballroom as the optimistic hopes and limitless dreams of the Class of 2023 took center stage with a stylish graduation banquet. 

A whopping sixty-four high school grads, accompanied by their loved ones, convened to commemorate the rite of passage. There were traditional songs sung and drummed, a catered buffet-style dinner, opportunities to immortalize the occasion with a visit to an on-site photo booth, and plenty of motivational words offered by tribal leaders.

“We couldn’t be more amazed at how resilient this generation is,” said executive director of education Jessica Bustad. “No matter what the challenge, you guys show up and prove over and over again your willingness to adapt and move forward. We’re so excited to see where you go with your future. All of us within the Education Division want to see each of you succeed. We want you to be happy and healthy adults that are serving your community and loving your families. Whether you knew it or not, you’ve been actively reclaiming and revitalizing what education means to our people. So no matter where your destination is from here, I want you never to forget that your accomplishment honors all Indigenous people.” 

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 just the first major milestone on their journey to manifesting 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 and start building up a pension as a teenager. Of course, there are those newly minted adults eager to start a family of their own. Plus, a few individuals who never thought they’d graduate high school and, now having achieved the seemingly impossible, are searching for their next step. 

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

Tulalip citizens Sophia Rosen and Nolan Hegnes embody the dream chaser spirit, and for their impressive body of work accomplished over the past four years, they each earned the coveted title of Student of the Year.

Sophia, Senior Girl of the Year, was described by her Lake Stevens High School educators as sweet, welcoming, capable, trusting, and always going above and beyond. She was also characterized as accountable, trustworthy, and prompt. The Tulalip teenager persevered through mental health struggles her junior year, resulting in a deeper connection with school staff on her healing journey. On her road to graduating with a 3.2 grade point average, she was on the varsity cheer squad, expanded her studies through the Running Start program, attended Leadership classes, and tutored her peers. In the fall, she will proudly attend the University of Washington as a pre-science major. 

“My grandma Benita always made sure I knew of the resources the Tribe makes available for us and to utilize as much as I could. Something as simple as the tutoring program made a significant difference for me because I went to a very large public school where one-on-one time with the teachers wasn’t practical. By utilizing the Tribe’s tutoring program, I received the help and support I needed to feel confident in all my classes,” shared Sophia. 

“My advice to all our younger Tulalip students or really any Native American youth is there is no one you can work harder for than yourself,” she added. “You shouldn’t feel less motivated to achieve great things in school or excel in the classroom because of the stigma around being a good student or being stereotyped because of where you live or what family you come from.”

  Meanwhile Nolan, Senior Boy of the Year, attended Grace Academy for the last twelve years and maintained a stellar 3.85 G.P.A. He represents Tulalip as the only Native American in his graduating class. Nolan holds a black belt in Kung Fu, mentors his younger Kung Fu peers, and has shown leadership and mentorship skills working with children in our community. Most noticeably, he’s excelled on the golf course, whether on his high school golf team or in the Boys & Girls Club charity tournament. He’s participated in the National Honor Society since 10th grade, wherein he dedicated himself to maintaining his high academic standing and sought to give back to his tribe by volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club. 

Nolan’s mentors said his best attributes are his tremendous character, excellent teamwork ability, calm demeanor, and always respectful attitude. He’s been accepted into Arizona State University, where he’ll be pursuing a degree in architecture. 

“My parents have always instilled in me and my sister that education is everything,” said Nolan. “I have countless memories of my father reminding me that ‘no one can ever take away your education’. I’ve taken this lesson to heart and feel like by getting the most education I can, then it not only benefits me but my family and community as well. We are so fortunate as Tulalip tribal members to have the financial support to pay for our schooling. It’s such a great thing. I do my best always to remember that so many don’t have the opportunity that we do to have school paid for, and it motivates me to dream bigger, too. With the support of my family and tribe, I intend to become Tulalip’s first architect.”  

Becoming leaders of the present may seem daunting to most young adults who have grown accustomed to daily consistency and certain comfort levels provided by the modern educational structure. However, these Native youth have been bucking the trend and blazing new paths to academic success without realizing it. They’ve outperformed long-held stigmas about Native Americans and school systems, they’ve overcome the odds that stated they wouldn’t earn a high school diploma, and all the while, they broke down barriers that prevented previous generations from attending college.

For our students, their ability to thrive in the westernized school system not built for them and still be able to excel and graduate with notoriety means not only proving the doubters wrong, but proving their ancestors right. The right for future generations to be educated and be given the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor, Master or Doctorate degree was something previous tribal leaders fought and even sacrificed for. Their vision comes true every time an Indigenous citizen boldly ventures off to a University equipped with the strength of culture and a tribe’s worth of support. 

The annual graduation banquet culminated in a ballroom’s worth of support hoots and hollers as each graduate strutted down the red carpet to a podium where education staff and school district representatives awaited them. Each inspired Native was given congratulatory handshakes, hugs, and a stunning Pendleton travel bag as a graduation gift.

A cultural approach to recovery

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Aiming to build a strong and local recovery community so the people can heal together, the tribe’s Family Services Problem Gambling program is bringing the Wellbriety Movement to Tulalip. This past May, the program hosted a three-day training called the Medicine Wheel and the 12 steps. This training was limited to the first fifteen people to sign up and was focused on tribal adults in recovery. 

The training was created by White Bison, a Native American non-profit that founded the Wellbriety Movement in order to bring healing and recovery to tribal communities. By utilizing cultural practices and teachings to combat addiction, Indigenous nations throughout the country are seeing positive results thanks to White Bison’s trainings. 

The trainings are often referred to as fire starters, and they are designed to help get the ball rolling for recovering addicts and encourages them to take the initiative to build a recovery community from within the tribe. After a successful training for adults, the Problem Gambling program is preparing for another Medicine Wheel and 12 steps training, and this one is geared toward the youth of the community, ages 13 to 21. 

“We chose to do the youth training because it doesn’t seem like this is an area that’s talked about much with the youth; there’s not a whole lot of support in this area,” said Substance Use Disorder Professional, Robin Johnson. “And it’s intimidating when you’re a youth, to say that ‘I’m in recovery’ or ‘I don’t want to use’. High school and junior high are hard enough, it can be intimidating to take your stance.”

During the youth training, participants will delve into heavy topics including a look at how many of us were raised and how growing up in an environment where trauma lives and thrives, and where drug use and alcohol is often prevalent, can lead many children down a road to substance abuse, acting out, and depression. 

“Hopefully this helps bring a better understanding, because it talks a lot about intergenerational trauma,” Robin explained. “So, a better understanding of that and also their own family dynamics. Because that dynamic – if there’s no understanding, they feel responsible and start blaming themselves. This gives them an understanding of where it started, and why it’s happened within their families, and why it continues to happen.”

By providing that understanding , the program gives young adults the power back in their lives and teaches them how to ‘re-chart their lives with healthy choices and healthy behaviors’. The training harkens back to the teachings of our elders and uses the art of storytelling as an instructional method throughout the program. 

“What sets this training apart is, with the medicine wheel you do the steps in a circle,” stated Robin. “In the linear way, when you relapse you start over. In AA or NA, you start over. But with the medicine wheel, it’s in a continuous circle, so you just continue moving forward and that makes a huge difference.”

Along with the 12 steps, which helps with your personal character development, the youth will also sharpen a number of life skills in areas such as decision making, goal setting, solution finding, and creating a healthy self-image, among others. 

In addition to this training, the Problem Gambling program will also be hosting the White Buffalo’s Warrior Down this August. Warrior Down is a relapse and recovery support program for Natives who are completing treatment, as well as those who are returning to the community from incarceration. It’s also open to anyone with aspirations to become a local recovery coach, those who are on the road to recovery and are looking to be a pillar of support for others in the community who are going through similar tribulations. 

Said Robin, “By providing these trainings, people can then decide if this is something they want to bring into the community. And hopefully, they will get fired up about starting this. The ultimate thing that I would love to see is the youth, with the support of their parents or an adult, get some meetings started in hopes other youth would join in and want to take part.” 

The Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps for youth training is a three-day program and begins on June 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The training will be held at the Kenny Moses building. For more information, or to sign up for the training, please contact Robin Johnson at (360) 722-1067. 

“Your present situation isn’t your final destination, take every opportunity to learn and grow, be the next generation of leaders in this community. Find your truth, use your voice,” Robin expressed. “Tulalip offers so many ways to connect to its heritage and culture, this training is another way to cultivate an understanding of the history to influence positive change for the future.”

MSD’s Native American students honored as they prepare for middle school

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the evening of May 25, twenty-six Indigenous youth, from the Marysville School District (MSD), were celebrated and recognized for their hard work of completing elementary school. Bringing their 5th grade year to a close, the students beamed with pride as their parents and family cheered them on. As their names were announced, the young learners entered the longhouse of the Hibulb Cultural Center one at a time, in alphabetical succession of their last names, before taking a seat together at the head of the room. 

“Congratulations to all of our 5th grade students,” expressed Eneille Nelson, Marysville School District’s (MSD) Executive Director of Equity and Family Engagement. “You’ve accomplished a lot in getting through the first phase of your educational journey. You still have a long way to go, but you have started the journey. You’re on a great path, so stick with the path because at the end, the reward is going to be worth it.” 

The annual 5th grade honoring was co-coordinated and co-funded by the Tulalip Education Division team and the Positive Youth Development and Leadership Program. The honoring united students from over ten different elementary schools throughout the district. The new middle schoolers formally met the MSD Native liaisons as well as some of their future classmates, and a number of representatives from the Education Division.

“I want to thank you for joining us here today to honor these amazing 5th graders who will be going on to 6th grade,” said Jessica Bustad, Executive Director of Tulalip’s Education Division. “It’s going to be a big journey for you, we’re really excited to be here to support you and honor you. We’ll be here through your education journey and through your future. All these team members, we dedicate our time and lives to serving our youth. You are our future, and we value you.”

Eager to begin a new journey in their educational careers, the kids were all ears as the Native liaisons shared encouraging and motivational words with the students. Faith Valencia of the Tulalip Youth Council was also in attendance, and she invited the soon-to-be middle schoolers out to the Teen Center over the next couple months, where they planned out a fun and eventful summer that the elementary school graduates will be sure to enjoy. 

Native Liaison, Matt Remle shared, “I am very honored to be here tonight, honoring these future leaders, future middle schoolers. We wanted to show you all the support systems you’re going to have throughout your time in school, who to look out for in your time of need. Our team, liaisons, advocates, the equity department, we are here to support you in whatever capacity it is that you need.”

Each graduate received a special gift during the ceremony, a beautifully designed dreamcatcher, to commemorate their latest accomplishment. The ceremony ended with a traditional sduhubš song, performed by the MSD faculty, the Tulalip Youth Council, and Tulalip Education Division team members. 

5th grade graduate and Tulalip tribal member, Braiden Kane, reflected on the evening’s events. He stated, “Today felt really good. It was a little nerve-racking but I’m looking forward to the future, learning new things and meeting new people. And I’m just happy to be in the 6th grade!”

Following the ceremony, the kids happily posed for photos for their parents along with their fellow graduates. Their shared excitement of entering middle school together was evidenced in their wide smiles in every photo captured during the event.

Along with the dreamcatchers, the youth were sure to leave the Cultural Center with a message from Eneille. She urged the students, “Do not let anyone to tell you what you cannot do or what you cannot accomplish, because you have the ability to be anything you want to be and to go wherever you want to go. Don’t let anyone limit you to anything. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Training for a better tomorrow: TERO hosts graduation ceremony

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

This past February, sixteen men and women took a chance on themselves and committed to a sixteen-week course at the Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC). Entering the game with little to no experience, those individuals showed up every morning for five days a week to soak up as much knowledge as they could about the booming construction industry. At TVTC, their slogan is ‘Training For A Better Tomorrow’, and that day officially arrived for those sixteen students on the afternoon of May 26. 

A transformation took place at the space where the latest round of TVTC students learned numerous skills over the past few months in carpentry, cementing, plumbing, blueprint reading, and also in electrical and mechanical work. Tables were set up at the center of the TVTC building, and as soon as the clock struck 1:00 p.m., families and friends of each of the students began to pour in to show their support to their loved ones on their special day of recognition. 

“This is an amazing program,” said Teri Gobin, Tulalip Chairwoman and former TERO Director. “You all have improved your skills in all of the different trades that are offered here to help you. This is a good step. You are making a big difference in your life, your family’s lives, and especially your children’s lives. You are setting the example for the next generation by being somebody they can look up to. I’m so proud that we have so many here today that are graduating.”

TVTC is a construction-focused course, and it’s the first of its kind. To date, TVTC remains the only Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the nation. The course is offered to tribal members enrolled in any of the 574 federally recognized tribes, as well as to their parents, spouses, and children. Throughout the years, TVTC has helped hundreds of Natives find their career path, some from as far away as Alaska and Wyoming. And that’s not to mention the countless homegrown students. Out of the sixteen graduates this quarter, eleven are enrolled Tulalip tribal members.

“We are accredited through LNI. And what that does is it gives our graduates direct entry into an apprenticeship, in whatever union that they choose to go into,” explained Jerad Eastman, TVTC Site Specialist. “So, it checks a box that gives them a step up, compared to anyone coming off the street, into a union. Some of the other things that we do here is we give them OSHA-10 training, we give them First Aid/CPR and AED training, they get certified in boom lift, forklift, scissor lift, and they also get HAZWOPER-40 hours, which is like asbestos abatement and working with hazardous materials. Those are all beneficial for anyone who’s looking to get into the trades.” 

As soon as the students complete their 455 hours of coursework, they are introduced to a world full of opportunity with their newly acquired experience. According to the latest report by the U.S. Department of Labor, construction jobs are currently in high demand and are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years by an estimated 700,000 jobs. 

Many, if not all, of those available positions pay much more than the state’s minimum wage of $15.74. And a majority of those jobs are entry-level positions, so there is plenty of opportunity for TVTC students to make gains in both hands-on experience and financial health once they’ve completed their required apprenticeship hours. 

“The Native way is to take care of your people because that’s what we do, we take care of each other,” said TVTC Family Career Navigator, Lisa Telford. “Construction wages are livable wages that you can support your family on. I’ve always been interested in helping Natives enter the construction industry, mainly because it is such a good wage.”

In addition to helping their graduates get their foot in the door of the construction industry, the TVTC staff actively makes an effort to offer continued support throughout the graduate’s newfound career journey. And due to spending several hundred hours together, each class forms a unique bond with each other and the instructors. Classmates often keep in touch with one another far beyond their TVTC experience, and some even enter the same field together. 

The comradery was on full display at this quarter’s graduation ceremony. During the celebration, the students sat together at the back end of the classroom and let out enormous whoops, cheers, and applause each time their classmates received their certificate of completion. 

Said Jerad, “One of the things that we always talk about is that when you come to this program, you’re family. You gotta come back, and you gotta talk to future students. And another thing is that we’re always here to help you after this program. We’re always here to provide support, we’re always here to provide insight for them in whatever they need. At the end of the day, in the classes, we say ‘we leave together’, so we make sure no one’s leaving early. We all gotta leave together when everything’s done. We build a lot of groups here and we’re all one big family.” 

 After parting ways with their previous instructor at the end of the 2022 Fall quarter, Lisa, Jerad and TERO Client Services Coordinator Billy Burchett took on the instructor role for this group of students. 

Prior to the start of the quarter, Lisa shared, “Billy, who is a sheet metal worker and was the teacher’s assistant, is now the Client Services Coordinator of this program. And Jerad worked for Quil Ceda Village as a Project Manager, he knows a lot about blueprint reading and construction. We’re all going to do it together. I know about carpentry, Jerad knows about blueprints, Billy knows about math, plumbing, and electrical. We’re going to put it all together to make one exceptional instructor.”

After taking on that challenge, the instructors enjoyed the fruits of their labor on graduation day and shared laughter, hugs, personable daps, and happy tears with their students as they came forward to accept their certificates and gift bags.

“To me, the graduation is not really the finale because no matter what, they belong to the TERO vocational training center,” Lisa expressed. “We’re always going to be supporting you and reaching out to you. We can work as an advocate, act as a liaison, whatever we have to do to make your transition into the construction industry smooth. Throughout the whole program, I have the opportunity to watch them grow and shine. My favorite part is when they realize that they enjoy what they are doing, you can hear their laughter and see the pride on their faces. I enjoy watching them grow into that person.” 

The next TVTC course begins this September. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a few exceptions such as days when the class travels for a job site tour or when participants take part in a hands-on experience known as an ‘apprenticeship for a day’. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at (360) 716-4760 for additional information and an application.

And hold up! Before you fold your copy of the syəcəb or exit the Tulalip News website, we put together a short Q&A with a select few of this quarter’s TVTC graduates. Check it out below! 

Tirja Greenwell, Tulalip Parent

Tulalip News: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the program?

Tirja: Yes, absolutely. I am a tribal parent, the grandmother to my children is Benita Rosen. She knew that I was really interested in working with my hands and building things. She actually turned me onto this program about year and half ago, but that was during COVID. I finally took it this quarter and it’s a super cool program.  

Tulalip News: What were some of the skills you picked up through the course and what was your overall experience with TVTC?

Tirja: We had a crap-ton of hands-on experience, which was really cool and a lot of fun. We did personal projects, and I really grew through this program. I think one of the things that was most interesting was learning how to make blueprints.

Tulalip News: Now that you’ve completed the program, what’s next?

Tirja: I actually ended up leaving the program a couple of weeks before completion because I ended up getting a job at a small local plumbing company as a project manager. The program made a huge difference. Walking in there, and just having this this huge bag of knowledge, I was so confident, I was so prepared in that interview. After they hired me, they told me that I was one of the most impressive candidates they’ve ever seen. And I put my hands up to Lisa for that because I feel like she really harped on us to learn our strengths to help us succeed out in the real world. 

Jazlyn Gibson, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: Can you share how it feels to complete the TVTC course?

Jazlyn: It was a great accomplishment for myself and my fellow students. We all accomplished getting our diplomas on top of getting our certificates for construction.

Tulalip News: Can you describe your experience with the TERO program?

Jazlyn: It was a very hands-on experience. It was great to be here and to get know everybody. And we were the first to experience the program with three different teachers who weren’t used to being teachers. And also, as students we got to learn from each other because a lot of them had some prior experience. So that definitely helped us grow and do everything we needed to do to get through the program.

Tulalip News: Why do you believe this program is beneficial for tribal members and their families?

Jazlyn:  It definitely helps get your foot in the door. You gain the necessary skills and have all these different possibilities that you can pursue so that you can get out there and be successful.

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the course, what do you plan to do next?

Jazlyn: Personally, I am looking to get into a sheet metal position or electrician. This definitely helped me figure out what I wanted to do as a career.

Erik Cruz, Colville Spouse

Tulalip News: You completed the course; how does this accomplishment feel?

Erik: It feels great! I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but I’m definitely going into the construction field. This has been a really great traditional way to learn about the construction industry. Carpentry is my future.

Tulalip News: As a tribal spouse, why do you believe this program is beneficial to tribal members and their families?

Erik: Honestly, it’s something that people can get into early. And if young people can get into the trades early, they’ll be set for life. If you want to be rich, this is a great way to do so, it’s not the only way but it’s a good way to support yourself and your family.

Tulalip News: Do you have any advice for those interested in starting the course?

Erik: This is a pivotal program and it’s changed many people’s lives for the better. TERO is the GOAT!

Armando Vega, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: What is the biggest thing you are going to take away from this TVTC experience?

Armando: All the experience and tools that I gained here – working with machinery, telehandler, boom lifts, scissor lift. And getting to know what goes together when building a tiny home, from the framing, roofing, flooring, the shingles, learning all of that was pretty cool. And also, taking in all the electrical work. They taught us about Ohm’s Law and how to wire three-way circuits. I was really good at that. They taught us about sheet metal workers and the air systems in buildings, and I was really interested in that. And I built a table here and it made me really like carpentry. It was nice to learn how to nail things with the nail gun and about what goes between wood, and how wood glue sticks good.

Tulalip News: Why do you think this program is beneficial for tribal members, other Natives, and their families?

Armando: It’s really beneficial because you learn new skills and learn more about yourself. It opens up everything – it opens your mind and opens all your options. 

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the program, what’s next?

Armando: What’s next for me is going into a union. I got three applications that I’m finishing up. I’m going to apply for carpentry, electrician, and sheet metal worker. So, I’m doing whatever one gets back at me first.

Higher ED can help young adults get a general education diploma or high school diploma

Submitted by Josh Cleveland, Higher Education Specialist 

Why GED or HS Diploma?

  •  Increase Your Self-Esteem
  • Better job opportunities
  • Chance for college, technical school, or vocational education

What is an HS Diploma?

The HS Diploma is a record attained from going through courses at the high school level with passing grades. 

What is a GED?

GED is equivalent to the HS Diploma. Colleges, universities, and technical or vocational schools usually accept GEDs.

Which to choose?

Both GED and HS Diplomas are relatively the same—both open options for employment, or opportunities for college and universities, technical, or vocational education.

Although, some schools or universities prefer HS Diploma over GED. To get over a GED hurdle, a prospective student could take courses to attain an associate degree to transfer into a university that prefers the High School Diploma over the GED.


The GED or HS Diploma courses or programs need some form of accreditation. Higher ED can review these to prove accreditation. Most state, regional, or federal accreditation is acceptable. Accreditation reviews will be on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, the program must have unofficial transcripts upon graduation to prove courses were taken. We cannot allow places that only give a diploma, as a diploma alone does not prove courses or coursework were gone through and learned. 

Please inform Higher ED before enrolling or registering for a program to help ensure the cost is covered. A Higher ED packet, tribal ID, and an invoice (from an accredited program) are general requirements Higher ED needs to cover the program’s costs.


The Tulalip Tribes cover the cost of GED or HS Diploma courses for enrolled Tulalip Tribal members. 

Locations of courses:

For adults, GED and HS Diploma courses in-person are limited. There are some in-person courses for GED or HS Diploma, but it is subject to what schools are currently offering. Due to limited in-person, hybrid (online and in-person) are usually limited. Although, online courses are more often available for adults and are becoming the standard for many institutions.

For more information about in-person, hybrid, or online GED or HS Diploma courses, feel free to reach out to Higher ED.

GED or HS Diploma for Youth: 

Depending on the student’s age, GED or HS Diplomas may have to go through Youth Activities/Education or Higher ED. This will be on a case-by-case basis. Feel free to contact Higher ED or Youth Activities (Phone: 360-716-4909) for Youth.

GED or HS Diploma: 

 Please refer to Higher ED or Higher ED’s website for references of currently acceptable institutions for GED or HS Diplomas. 

A couple of options we currently use, are either Penn Foster (online HS Diploma program), or Everett Community College [EvCC] (for GED or HS Diploma). The GED program through EvCC can either be all online, or we have an in-person session on Tuesdays from 5 PM – 6:30 PM in the C-2 building.

Likewise, institutions not listed may be brought to Higher ED to review accreditation on a case-by-case basis. Link: https://www.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov/Dept/HigherEducation

Questions or Concerns: 

For more information, questions, or concerns on formats (online, in-person, or hybrid) of courses, classes, and assistance to help get accredited courses or classes funded, don’t hesitate to contact Higher Education (Higher ED) at highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov, or 360-716-4888.

  • Higher ED Contact Information: 
  • Email – highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov
  • Phone – 360-716-4888
  • Website – https://www.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov/Dept/HigherEducation
  • Address: 7707 36th Ave NW building D-1, Tulalip, WA 98271

Google embraces brighter future through young bot builders

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Presented by tech giant Google, a first-of-its-kind robotics camp took place over the weekend of April 1st at the Tulalip Youth Center. Nearly 100 eager youth participated in the free, two-day event that kicked off their Spring Break with a unique hands-on opportunity to dive into the robotics realm.

Designed for all students between 5th – 12th grade, regardless of previous robotics experience, the camp coordinators strived to build bridges of imagination between the Rez-bound Native participants and possible future careers in the computer science and engineering fields. Of course, that was simply a side to the main course of the kids designing and building an actual robot. 

“I’m so thrilled to see all these kids show up because it proves to Google just how much our children need this type of STEM engagement,” explained Google test engineer Suzanne DePoe (confederated tribes of Siletz). “Our kids are so bright and aren’t given enough recognition for the knowledge that they have. I tell people all the time that when it comes to our Native American kids all you have to do is capture their imagination. Because once you do, they’ll dazzle you with what they’re capable of creating.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to get our kids outside of their comfort zones,” she added. “Only then can they experience new things, gain new perspectives and see things they’ve never seen before so that they can then dream of bigger and bolder future for both themselves and their Tribes.”

Suzanne is a member of Google’s Aboriginal and Indigenous Network that is dedicated to product inclusion, social responsibility initiatives, and internal efforts related to hiring and retention. She was instrumental in coordinating the robotics camp, along with Tulalip education director Jessica Bustad and youth enrichment supervisor Sarah Murphy. 

An opportunity to build robots and use them in a series of driving and programming skills challenges is what motivated the kids to be ready to go by 9:00 am on a Saturday and Sunday. Everything they engaged in was more than simply robotics, it was learning the basic essentials of computer science, which is all about promoting creativity and innovation.

“I was really excited for this robotics camp because I’ve really developed an interest for building stuff, meeting new people, and bonding with others who have common interests,” said 16-year-old youth council member Faith Valencia. “I had never built anything close to this before nor anything remote-controlled, so this was an all-new experience that challenged me in the best kind of way. It was very difficult at first, especially the programming and coding, but with the help of my team we figured it out. Even if not everyone wants to be an engineer or work in computer sciences, being able to work with and troubleshoot new technologies is a basic life skill worth developing.” 

Computer science allows students to use their imaginations and develop new ideas and solutions. They can then use this knowledge in the future to one day create their own apps, design websites that build upon their tribal infrastructure, or develop new software programs or functional hardware to take their own business to the next level one day.

Teaching computer science to our already tech-savvy youngsters also helps to promote diversity and inclusivity in the ever-growing technology industry. The tech industry has historically been dominated by white men, but by teaching computer science to a diverse group of students like Tulalip’s youth, tech companies like Google partnering with tribal education departments can help break down barriers to access and opportunity.

Promoting diversity in the computer science fields, which was witnessed at length at the two-day camp that resulted in Tulalip boys and girls lighting up with pure excitement and joy through various stages of robot building, is necessary to ensure future technologies are inclusive and accessible to everyone.

There are still many communities and families who lack access to technology and computer science education. By providing students with the opportunity to learn computer science, sovereign tribal nations can help to level the playing field and provide its people with the tools they need to succeed in the digital age. The importance of this sentiment was expressed by mother Dawn DePoe-Ike who journeyed all the way from Yakama in order for her twin sons, Nolan and Nathan, to participate in the bot building extravaganza.

“It’s important for my sons to be exposed to everything the science technology era has to offer, especially hands-on learning activities, so they can know these things exist as an option for their future,” shared Dawn. She is a teacher at Yakama tribal school and prioritizes her children understanding the larger context of thriving in the modern world.

Dawn continued, “When I look out at this camp and see my two boys along with all the other Native children building, programming, and working together, I can’t help but think of everything our ancestors went through. From surviving the Sand Creek Massacre to surviving the Carlisle Indian Industrial School then the Chemawa Boarding School, plus all the things drugs and alcohol brought, it’s just awe-inspiring to see that our young ones aren’t just surviving, instead they are beginning to thrive.”

Tree planting preserves tribal wetlands

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On March 21, Heritage High School students were recruited by the Wetland Program to help plant over 100 trees in Quil Ceda Village (QCV) wetlands to sustain the Coho Creek restoration site. The sunny spring day made perfect weather for the students to take on the cool wetlands. With about ten students and some Heritage staff dressed in boots and carrying their shovels, they were well prepared to get the job done.

Kyliah Elliott and Lacinda Moses were just a few of the students in attendance. The girls explained how they were taking this opportunity to observe what an internship would include with the Wetland Program.

“I came today because I like being outside and wanted to be a part of the tree planting because it’s a part of who we are. I want to intern here and maybe learn more. People are ruining the environment every day, and I hope I can make a difference one day to help fix it,” Lacinda said. 

Wetland Program Coordinator Allison Warner’s goal is also to attract more tribal members and Native youth towards environmental work and join different areas of the Natural Resources department. In doing so, she has offered up internship positions to several tribal members already interested in the field and continues to involve Native students in events like tree planting. 

“I would love to help educate and support more Native biologists. I think the Indigenous perspective has more layers to it than non-Natives’. We [non-Natives] can do our best to educate ourselves on Native culture and way of life. Still, a Native biologist would have their unique perspective and cultural connection to represent Tribal resources better.”

The Tulalip Wetland Program has conducted efforts to rehabilitate the area since 2016. With over 4000 acres of wetlands making up approximately 1/4 of the reservation, understanding wetlands is critical to how Tulalip lives and thrives. Wetland analysis, preservation, and potential development projects play a significant role in determining what wetlands can succeed with some assistance and provide tribal resources like salmon, deer, berries, cedar, etc., and what wetlands are best to develop for future tribal projects and endeavors. 

Allison said significant efforts focused around the QVC wetlands have been primarily due to the destruction caused by the US military during World War II. During that time, the US military occupied the land with hiding military equipment and resources. The heavily forested area made for the perfect escape to blend into and hide from any aerial spy surveillance. Along with that, with its quick access to the freeway, the military could quickly import/export and leave at a moment’s notice. 

However, because the area is a wetland, the US military needed to make the land more viable for their efforts to start any building or have access to it. One major course of action was making large ditches that forced all the water from the wetland into one central area. Along with depriving that area of its primary resources, many trees, bushes, and other agricultural species were removed, demolished, and consumed to make the land easier to maneuver around on. Even a railroad was created solely to transport military equipment in and out of the area. Today, a piece of that railroad still exists. 

Soon after the war was over and the military departed, the Tribe and the State determined how damaged the land was. Along with destroying the land’s natural resources, items like bunkers and equipment were left behind, and chemical spills and chemically-affected septic tanks were brought to attention. At this point, the US Environmental Protection Agency was brought in to survey the land and create a plan to clean up the ground.

Since then, much progress has been made, and the area is no longer considered a danger. Significant steps like tree planting have been implemented to rehabilitate the wetland. Overall, wetlands play a substantial role in how the environmental pyramid thrives. 

Allison explained, “With the area’s connection to Coho Creek and Sturgeon Creek, protecting the stream’s water quality and helping the salmon thrive in this area is essential. The area we are planting trees in is the property’s wettest part and is most suitable to feed the stream. As we’ve seen with our efforts, certain species like beaver, deer, and birds have migrated back to the wetland and are helping sustain the wetland.”

Some trees were reintroduced to the wetland, such as Sitka spruce, paper birch, cedar, red osier dogwood, and alder. Other items like pollinating plants, hooker willow, bitter cherry, shrubs, honeysuckle, black twin berry, and wapato are also being planted. All of these are meant to replicate the environment before US military inhabitance. 

So how do trees benefit a stream? Allison described trees as the structure that keeps the bank from eroding. They also provide the organic matter that insects eat, which in turn, other species will eat, and so on. Therefore, trees and shrubs act as the foundation of food webs. Additionally, they provide shade to keep the stream and salmon cool. Ultimately, salmon cannot live in water more than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So if the water were too high or hotter than necessary, it would affect the oxygen levels of the creek, and salmon won’t exist in this area.

Currently, a small run of salmon occupies the stream, but they hope it can become a more stable place for salmon to spawn and thrive. Planting trees is only the beginning. Tending to the area, monitoring the new trees and plants, and ensuring its survival against invasive species is the focus for the next ten years. 

If you would like to volunteer your time and efforts to the wetland projects, please get in touch with Allison Warner at awarner@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov. 

MSD round dance celebrates Native cultureMSD round dance celebrates

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

A few things about Natives will always stay the same throughout time. One of the most important, we love to surround ourselves with our loved ones while we eat, sing, dance, and rejoice in our culture.

On March 9th, the Marysville School District Indian Education department held its annual round dance. Natives of surrounding tribes joined tribal and community members to embrace the lively cultural evening. The festivities began with a shared meal, followed by singing, dancing, communal conversations, and shopping from local Native vendors and artists selling handmade pieces like ribbon skirts, cedar headbands, and jewelry. 

In typical round dance style, drummers and singers gathered in the middle of the room while dancers shuffled clockwise in a circle around them. With many tribes represented that night, traditional tribal songs and regalia from throughout Washington were adorned and admired for people to see and hear. 

The round dance even had a surprise guest, newly appointed MSD Superintendent Dr. Zachary Robbins. Several people gathered beside him to teach the basic steps and meaning behind the movements. With a smile, Dr. Robbins quickly picked up the moves and danced alongside community members for a few songs.

Other than the many rich cultural elements demonstrated at the event, was pure comradery between the people who attended. MSD Native American Program Coordinator Matt Remle said, “The round dance was a beautiful evening of bringing together our families, youth, elders, community members, and district staff to enjoy and celebrate life. It was good to see the smiling faces, laughter, and sharing in our cultural ways of life.” 

A crucial levy for Marysville and Tulalip youth

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

Registered Marysville and Tulalip residences should’ve already received their voting ballots concerning the reinstatement of the Marysville School District (MSD) Levy. The levy is not a new tax; it is a reinstatement of a levy that supports student learning, achievement, health and safety, sports, and school activities. Votes must be submitted on or before Election day on February 14th. If the levy does not pass, it will hurt MSD and the Tulalip youth attending. 

MSD Executive Director of Finance David Cram said, “This levy is critical to the school district’s operations in support of its students’ learning, physical, and social-emotional health and development. Without this levy…reductions in staff and other programs district-wide will be necessary.” The levy directly affects students from preschool through high school and eliminates resources that Tulalip youth use daily. 

If the levy does not pass, what does it directly impact?

  • Sports like football, basketball, cheerleading, soccer, tennis, swimming, and others risk getting shut down
  • The Marysville Pilchuck High School pool, which has been open for over 50 years by levy dollars, risks closing its doors
  • Transportation like school buses and drivers will be cut. Therefore making students wait outside longer to be picked up or required to be driven to school
  • School nurses and counseling services risk losing their jobs, and students will be left without those resources
  • Teaching staff will be cut. Therefore class sizes will grow, and students will receive less one-on-one time making it harder to learn
  • Students will be forced to re-use older technology 
  • Creative outlets and college application resources like clubs and other extra-curricular groups will be eliminated 
  • Early learning for kids ages three to four will be cut. Studies show that students without early learning opportunities are more likely to skip class, be suspended from school, and be less academically prepared when they’re older

Why is the district struggling for funds?

Because the levy failed in 2022, this upcoming levy reinstatement has become more crucial for MSD than ever. 

Out of the revenue MSD receives, state revenue makes up 68%, federal 14%, property tax (from levies) 14%, misc. other 3%, and local non-tax 1%.

According to MSD, the state funding they receive only provides 1 out of 7 safety and security staff, 27 out of 54 counselor and emotional support staff, 5 out of 21 social services staff, and 54 out of 69 grounds and maintenance staff. 

Because Tulalip tribal youth are a big part of MSD, the district does receive 2.2 million annually from Tulalip tribal government. This funding serves three schools: Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, Totem Middle School, and Heritage High School. However, that still only equates to part of the misc. other (3%) of the funding that MSD obtains. 

What does the levy cost you?

This is not a new tax. This levy is a proposed reinstatement and is 68 cents less than the expiring EP & O Levy rate. Levies typically run on a 4-year cycle renewed through voter-approved ballot measures. The levy is approximately $1.67 per thousand of an assessed home value and is 68 cents less per thousand than the expiring measure. It saves each household roughly $340 less per year in taxes. For example, if your home is valued at $600,000 (the median home price in Marysville), the estimated levy cost per year is approximately $1,000. 

For tribal members, land in trust won’t be affected by the levy tax.

Additionally, senior citizens and disabled persons may qualify for tax exemption. To learn more, people can call the Snohomish County’s Assessors office at 4253883433.  

What if there is mistrust with MSD?

As the Executive Director of Tulalip Tribes Education Division, Jessica Bustad, posted on Facebook, “We know that the division between Tulalip and Marysville is real. We know that racism and inequalities are alive. We know that our Native children (and all students of color) deserve better! Our children deserve an education that will build them up and contribute to their quality of life. Our people have suffered at the hands of the ‘education system,’ starting with Boarding Schools. We know, in our hearts, that these systems must be decolonized and dismantled for our children to thrive. However, it takes time to create and build a foundation for our children. Once our Tulalip school is built, the reality is that we will still have to earn the trust of our parents and families…In the meantime, we must support our children in the public school system. Supporting this Levy is supporting OUR children. When a Levy fails, it is not the School Board or Executives that are hurting, it is our students & families, and the teachers who serve them.” 

How does this levy directly impact Tulalip youth?

According to MSD Native American Program Coordinator Matthew Remle, there are around 800 Tulalip students within the district. Transportation, Pay to Play, and paraeducators are some of the heavily used resources that Tulalip students and low-income families risk losing. 

Why is tribal support so crucial?

As Jessica has already witnessed working with MSD, some of these budgetary cuts have already been made because of the failed levies last year. Class sizes have already started to grow, and middle school sports were cut and merged with the YMCA. 

 Historically speaking, the Tulalip population has consistently had a low voter turnout. According to a Snohomish County Elections breakdown, the overall turnout for the April 2022 Marysville School District Levies was 27%. Only 12,924 votes were cast out of 47,899 registered voters. And if we look more closely at the Tulalip Reservation population, the turnout was 24% or 1,799 votes cast out of 7363 registered voters.

 Looking back at the failed levies from last year, Proposition No.1 lost by 9%, and  Proposition No. 2 lost by 5%. Jessica said, “We must do what’s right for our people and students in any election. These decisions are being made without us simply because we’re not voting. Ultimately, its impacts our children and their future.” 

How does someone help?

Vote! As Superintendent Dr. Zachary Robbins said, “This is the most critical levy in the city’s, Marysville, and Tulalip community’s history.” Ballots can be turned in until February 14th at 8:00 PM. The closest ballot drop box is located by the Don Hatch Youth Center. If you have not registered to vote, please register online by February 6th at:  https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx?ref=voteusa_en, or in person at 3000 Rockefeller Ave, Admin West Building, Everett, WA 98201, by February 14th.

To gain voter turnout and support for the levy, the Tulalip Education Division is hosting a Valentine’s Day ballot drop party on February 14th at the Greg Williams Court at 5:30 PM. For any additional questions, please reach out to Jessica at jbustad@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.  

*Levy information and statistics provided by MSD