Covid Challenges for Colleges – Fall 2021

Submitted by Jeanne Steffener, Tulalip Tribes Higher Ed

The Delta variant appears to be the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States today. This virus is highly transmissible. “Data suggests that vaccinated people maybe able to spread infections caused by the highly transmissible variant.”1 CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky told reporters in July that “The good news is that all three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of covid-19 related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people.”

So, what does this mean for colleges and universities hoping to return to the classroom in the fall? In less than a month, students are planning to go back to school as colleges/universities attempt their first in-person classroom sessions in over a year and a half, since March 2020. However, a nationwide surge in the Delta variant looms heavy and is complicating future plans. Since the variant is so contagious, higher ed institutions are watching it closely.
  In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee recently ordered all employees at state public colleges to get vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Delta variant surging throughout the United States, targeting the unvaccinated and children. “Early Research suggests the Delta variant is about 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and became the predominant variant in the United States during the spring”2 of 2020.

Colleges are eager to resume classes in Autumn, 2021 after having to revamp what school looks like and they have been bringing online learning to students as an alternate delivery system while the virus and variants continue to assault and kill people around the world. Due to the deadly severity of the Delta variant of coronavirus, more colleges are giving out incentives and penalties in their efforts to get students and staff vaccinated before the beginning of the fall term. According to Yale Medicine: “A major worry right now is Delta, a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December. It swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain before reaching the U.S., where it is now the predominant variant.”3 Washington State is among a growing list of colleges and universities mandating proof of vaccination for the fall 2021 term to keep themselves and others safe. 

“WASHINGTON STATE: Central Washington University, Clover Park Technical College, Eastern Washington University, Evergreen State College, Gonzaga University, Heritage University, Highline College, Pacific Lutheran University, St. Martin’s University, Seattle Colleges (Central, North, South), Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Spokane Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, Tacoma Community College, University of Puget Sound, University of Washington (Tacoma, Bothell, Seattle), Washington State University, Wenatchee Valley College, Western Washington University, Whitman College, Whitworth University”,including Washington State Community Colleges. The complete list of schools throughout the United State can be found at: https://universitybusiness.com/state-by-state-look-at-colleges-requiring-vaccines/. Students should check with their schools about the specific requirements of that institution.

The Higher ED Team is ready to assist you on your educational journey. You can either call us at 360-716-4888 or email us at highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov for more information for Fall 2021 term.

  •  “What you need to know about the highly contagious delta variant” by Lindsey Bever, Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum. August 18, 2021. Read more at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/07/delta-variant-covid/
  •   “What you need to know about the highly contagious delta variant” by Lindsey Bever, Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum. August 18, 2021. Read more at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/07/delta-variant-covid/
  • “5 Things to Know About the Delta Variant” by Kathy Katella. August 18, 2021. Read more at: https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid
  •  “State-by-state look at colleges requiring Covid-19 vaccines”. August 10, 2021 Read more at: https://universitybusiness.com/state-by-state-look-at-colleges-requiring-vaccines/

The future of Tulalip literacy is in good hands

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over the last five weeks, a group of Tulalip youth with a shared interest for writing met at Hibulb Cultural Center to embrace their creative sides, while improving their intellectual skills for the upcoming school year. Led by local author and Cascade High School teacher Steve Bertrand, the Youth Writer’s Workshop came together Monday mornings for two-hour sessions. 

“Our workshop was open to students between 5th and 12th grade. Every week focused on a different form of creative writing, from short stories to letters to songs and poetry,” explained Steve. He brought a wealth of experience to the workshop with over 40-years of teaching experience and more than 35 books published.

“From brainstorming and idea development to rough drafts and the editing process to final publication and sharing with the group, I’ve been really impressed with the kids and how much material they developed in such a short amount of time,” he continued. “Throughout my career I’ve taught both middle schoolers and high schoolers, and it’s always remarkable to witness the creativity and openness of younger people. The students I was fortunate to teach here were eager to learn and embraced all the forms of writing.” 

Every day kids experience events that are new to them. In doing so, they learn new words that expand their vocabulary and have new ideas that help them develop a creative and curious mind to understand the world around them. By encouraging children to write from a young age, they can develop critical emotional skills that are beneficial at any age. Channeling emotions, being able to manage a difficult situation, and understanding how others feel are just some of the skills invoked through creative writing.

A group of middle schoolers giving up precious hours of their summer break to develop their writing skills seems farfetched, that is until you talk to the students in question. Then it becomes clear you’re dealing with the kind of academic achievers who don’t require encouragement to explore their imaginations, nor are they bashful about conveying their personal experiences and emotions through written word.

“I enjoyed learning new ways to write,” said soon-to-be 6th grader Allyea Hernandez. “Learning how to properly write a poem was my favorite part of the class. Poetry isn’t something I’m really interested in, but it was still fun learning how there are so many ways to create a poem. Did you know they don’t have to rhyme? They can be about mood and emotion. I wrote a poem about happiness that my mom really liked.”

“It’s been fun. There were way more types of writing than I thought, but Steve is a really good teacher and made learning about the different writing forms enjoyable,” added future 7th grader Kileea Pablo. She mentioned writing with a focus on imagery, rhyme, metaphor and personification would help her in English and Literature classes she’ll be taking next month. “I know I’ll be doing a lot of writing in 7th grade and wanted to get a head start practicing and learning new writing skills by coming here. It was worth it. I’m more confident expressing emotion in my writing now.”

In a world where text speak and emojis are so common, creative writing helps to develop writing skills that are being forgotten about. If a youth cannot communicate effectively through written word, the problem may only become worse as they grow older. Encouraging creative writing can help a young person, better yet anyone of any age, to communicate effectively.

Middle schooler Allyea put it best when she proclaimed, “Writing is something you need to know how to do well, otherwise you can’t really get far.” 

Concluding their fifth and final writer’s workshop, the wordsmiths in training proudly displayed their certificates of completion in front of the latest Hibulb exhibit ‘The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy.” If these Tulalip writers have anything to say about it, the future of Tulalip literacy is in pretty good hands, too.

Friendship

Friendship is the best.

Everyone knows that friends last.

That’s why I stick with mine.

– Amaya Hernandez 

Happiness

Happiness is as yellow as a lemon on a hot summer day. 

Sounds like a bumblebee buzzing or a bird chirping.

Tastes like sweet vanilla ice cream. 

Smells like your mothers homemade cookies out of the oven. 

Looks like a cozy bed after a long day. 

It makes you feel joyous. 

– Allyea Hernandez

Paddle to Pre-School Parade

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Nearly thirty vehicles formed a line that began on 76th St. NW, wrapped around 36th Ave NW, and led to the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy parking lot on a hazy August afternoon. Inside each car were eager and excited students who successfully completed the academy’s birth-to-three program and have now earned the official title as the new ‘big kids’ of the early learning center.

In total, thirty-nine future leaders received their very-first certification-of-completion and will be moving-up to the pre-school side of the academy beginning next school year. 

As each car entered the parking lot, the students received a large cut-out star with their names written across it. When the cars drove through the TELA property, the students were cheered on by their teachers, friends and family members, who recognized the little ones for their first-of-many accomplishments of their educational journey. 

 “Today we had our Paddle to Pre-school Parade,” said Marcilena Vela, TELA Birth-to-Three Administrator. “Our three-year-old’s, from our birth-to-three early head start program, are moving over to either Montessori or ECEAP next year. This is our first drive-thru celebration parade, due to COVID. We usually host it up at the gym. This is important to celebrate because this is a milestone for the kids, and it gives them the opportunity to show how much they’ve accomplished in the short little three years of their lives. We had a great turnout! We had 27 out 39 children.”

The kiddos also received gift baskets and popcorn buckets from their teachers, a bittersweet moment for both parties as they shared a final student-teacher exchange together before the students begin the next exciting phase of their education across campus.  

Native and Educated

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Every time a Native American graduates from a university, community college or vocational school, they become the living embodiment of what it means to reclaim a narrative. For so long Native students were shut out of academic environments where they could tell their own stories and promote their thriving traditions. 

When it comes to being Native American and educated, the dominate narrative is they can’t succeed in a westernized education system. United States Census data supports this notion by showing that while more than 65% of American high school students go to college, just 19% of Native students continue their education after high school. In an age where education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life, only 13% of tribal citizens age 25 and older hold a college degree. 

That narrative is being reclaimed and rewritten by present day Indigenous scholars who are actively working to decolonize education pathways, not just for themselves but for generations to come. On the evening of July 28, thirty-one such proud Tulalip scholars were celebrated for their commitment to higher education and, in the process, breaking the often-cited stereotype that Natives don’t succeed on the college level. 

“You’ve all put in so much hard work and countless hours of studying to earn your degrees. We are so proud of you for choosing to better yourself, your family and your future through education,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin during the higher education graduation dinner. “As a Tribe, we know we need to be better at utilizing your brilliant minds and supports our college graduates. As we continue to grow our business operations and evolve as a tribal government, we want you to feel welcome to build a career with us.”

It was a powerful moment as the words washed over the graduates as they sat with their support system of family and friends in the Tulalip Resort’s orca ballroom. Hopefully many of the graduates will consider finding their place within Tulalip’s enterprise that every year expands larger than both casinos and the Administration Building. 

For some of the graduates, they are already working diligently on carving out a role on their traditional homelands. Homegrown product Adiya Jones attended Quil Ceda elementary, Totem middle school and Heritage high school before venturing off to Skagit Valley College to earn her degree. While attending college, she began working for Tulalip’s Youth Services with a mission to show the youth that they can succeed on and off the reservation. 

“I think it’s so important to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and motivate you to continue growing into your best self,” said Adiya. “I was fortunate to have those kinds of people in my life and now I want to be that person for others. With the right support system, our kids can dream bigger and brighter. My advice to my fellow graduates is to consider working for your people. The best thing about the Tulalip Tribes is they’re very welcoming to their own people and the higher practices are set up for us to succeed and allow us to transition to other departments in order to find what we’re passionate about.”

The class of 2021 higher education grads included 9 Associate’s degrees, 8 Bachelor’s degrees, and 3 Master’s degrees. Six vocational diplomas, 4 high school diplomas, and a GED recipient rounded out the 31 Tulalip honorees. 

Native graduate stories are as complex and diverse as the students themselves. It’s often a longer, tougher road for Tulalip adults pursuing their education, which is all the more reason to celebrate their accomplishments. Such is the case with 42-year-old Santana Sheldon-Thompson who managed to balance her family life with multiple kids, working a fulltime job, and going back to school to fulfill an educational dream.

“To be truthful, I was a little embarrassed at my age receiving my Associate’s degree. Then I realized everyone has their own path,” shared Santana, now a Columbia College graduate, who was embraced by both her teenage daughters before taking the stage. “My path was to raise my two girls, give them my full attention and pause on my education. My advice to both my daughters is it’s never too late to go back to school and you’re never too old to learn new things. My grandpa Francy once told me, ‘You never stop learning’, and those words are always in my heart.”

The importance of recapturing the story about Natives and education requires telling it anew with bold new characters and captivating subplots. Unquestionably, it will take a new generation of Native storytellers who have the cultural knowledge and digital knowhow to film, photograph, and document history as it unfolds on reservations across Native America.

Tulalip tribal member Chalet Alexander shares in the mission to recapture the story of her people and armed with a Master’s degree from Seattle Film Institute, she intends to do just that. For her incredible work to date and courage shown to overcome severe mental illness enroute to her degree, Chalet was chosen as the student speaker and wrapped in a 8th Generations blanket.

“It’s so difficult being a Native American and telling the story. It’s difficult being a woman and telling the story. What drives me is knowing how difficult it is and yet choosing to overcome all of it by saying ‘I’m important. My people are important. And our stories are worth telling’,” said Chalet. She hopes to continue her educational journey first, with her goal toward a one-of-a-kind experiment media Ph.D. offered by Western Washington University. “Ten years from now I will be telling stories in a unique, ever-changing way that will evolve as our technology continuously improves.”

Tulalip Higher Education staff are eager to help new and returning students find their path to academic success. They can assist with FAFSA applications and finding scholarship opportunities, as well as simply reviewing the Tribe’s current policies regarding paying for college. For those tribal members who are empowered to help reclaim the narrative, please contact Higher Education at (360) 716-4888 or email highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov 

Benefits of your GED

Submitted by Jeanne Steffener, Higher Ed

Have you been thinking about taking that leap and getting your GED? Well the back to school season is the perfect time for you to either begin or continue your GED journey. There are benefits in earning your GED. The overwhelming majority of employers in this country require a high school diploma. A GED diploma is accepted by employers, i.e., like a high school diploma. 

The GED testing service introduced a new version of the test in 2014. Format changes occurred in the 2019 update, with no changes to the tested content. With a goal of aligning the tests with the new Common Core curricula, most states adopted the College and Career-Ready Standards Act – 2019. The Common Core standards places more weight on writing and content analysis. The test was originally developed back in 1942 for U.S. military personnel. The GED test gave an alternative option for those who had not completed their high school diploma.
  The current test shifted test taking from pencil and paper to computer format. Instead of five (5) sections, the test series was reduced to four (4) sections that evaluates students’ reasoning capabilities through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Science and Social Studies. The Language Arts and Social Studies sections have been absorbed into the essay section and includes writing assignments in each area. The test is not necessarily more difficult, but it quizzes different skills.  

So why are you taking the test and how is it going to help you in the future? A major tenent of the test requires students to show their critical thinking skills through writing that is convincing. So why is this important? Because employers want their new employees to have the ability to think critically. Critical thinking is that ability to analyze and evaluate a problem arriving at a fact-based solution. “The skills that we need, in order, to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making. Specifically, we need to be able to: Think about a topic or issue in an
objective and critical way.”1

Receiving your GED, opens many doors for you. Now, you can continue with your education at an accredited trade school, college, or university. In addition, having a GED paves the way for you to establish higher educational goals for your life.

You might have noticed when searching for a job that most employers are requiring at least a high school diploma or GED to apply for a job at their company. Studies have shown that persons with a GED diploma will earn about $400,000 more during their lifetime. This is a HUGE incentive.

Knowing that you were able to reach the goal gives you a giant boost to your self-esteem. With this piece of paper, your whole world opens, and new opportunities present themselves, all because you decided to get YOUR GED. This is a new chapter in your life, and it is going to be amazing because you made the effort to study and persevere, while reaching for the brass ring. Earning a GED is a generational investment. Educated parents generally want their children to become educated.

So, if you want education to become your family’s tradition, please contact Higher ED. The Higher ED Team is ready to assist you on your educational journey. You can either call us at 360-716-4888 or email us at highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov for more information.

           “The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking”. Read more at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/critical-thinking.html

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!”