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.

iLocalbox makes prescription pick-up easier at Tulalip Pharmacy

By Kalvin Valdillez

“When the pandemic first hit, we were very concerned about what would happen if our staff members became ill,” expressed Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy Director, Kelvin Lee. “What if we could not continue face-to-face service, what were we going to do? This is basically a solution to that question.”

The iLocalbox is a new and safe option for Tulalip Pharmacy patients who need to pick up their prescriptions after the pharmacy’s standard hours of operations. While utilizing the technology’s large touch screen, patients will be required to verify a number of credentials before receiving their medication from the new distribution system. 

Kelvin said, “This is a new concept. And it is also the very first dispensing kiosk in Washington state. A similar product to this would be the Amazon lockers, which most people are familiar with. When you go to a Whole Foods store, you see those lockers where you can pick up your Amazon orders, and this is kind of equivalent to that. We wanted to have a mechanism to dispense prescriptions to patients after hours and this machine can definitely do that. When they order their prescriptions, they can ask us to put it in the kiosk and they’ll be able to pick it up after hours.”

The kiosk is located right outside the pharmacy’s doors. With over fifty storage units, the iLocalbox can hold any type of medication, including refrigerated items. This was an important feature that the pharmacy sought out, as many of the pharmacy’s patients are being treated for diabetes, and medication such as insulin needs to be stored at a specific temperature in order to be effective. 

“The bigger units are actually refrigerated units,” said Kelvin. “We need those because a lot of our members are diabetic and they need insulin and have medication that needs to be refrigerated. We don’t want to limit this service to just regular prescriptions, and we are happy to have the refrigerated units, so we can store all those items and our diabetic patients can pick-up insulin after hours.” 

The contactless self-service system allows the patients to engage in a fully-digital pharmacy experience, where they can order, pick-up and even pay for their prescriptions with their smart phones. 

“When the prescriptions are ready, they will be getting an e-mail notification from us as well as a text message notification,” Kelvin explained. “On the notification, there is a QR code and they can bring their phone to the kiosk and scan the QR code on the machine. After they sign their names on the screen, the corresponding locker will open-up and they can pick-up their prescription. Safe and secure, because we want to make sure the prescription goes to the right person. Our patients also have the option to pay for their prescription right when they receive the e-mail or text notification, or they can choose to pay for it on location. It’s very convenient.”

Kelvin explained that there are some restrictions to the kiosk’s services and they are listed as follows: 

  • Prescriptions will only stay in kiosk for seven days.
  • No controlled substances will be allowed in the kiosk.
  •  Patient must receive consultation before they are allowed to pick up new prescriptions.
  • No pick up from 12am – 7am.
  • This service is straightly for patients who cannot make it to the pharmacy during regular business hours. Please refrain from ordering kiosk service if you can pick up during regular hours as there are only limited number of lockers available.

To learn more about the iLocalbox, please contact the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy at (360) 716-2600. 

Restored Totem Pole Raising Planned at Totem Middle School

Msvl., WA – The totem pole at Totem Middle School was originally erected on June 7, 2006 and was a gift from The Tulalip Tribes. The vision of the pole was created by the students who attended the school at the time.

When Principal Keri Lindsay came to the school a few years ago she noticed the totem pole was looking like it needed some care. She contacted The Tribes who connected her with Master Carver Kelly Moses. Kelly originally carved the pole. The totem pole was taken down once 11 years ago in the spring of 2010 and some minor repairs were done at that time.

The totem pole has a unique history and story. The tree came from lands on the Tulalip Reservation just above Port Susan. When the tree was harvested, students from the school were able to be on site to witness the process. Kelly explained that the tree was harvested in the winter and there was no sap running, which allowed the carving to start sooner. 

40 students traveled to Duncan BC, to the Royal British Museum, which was holding a totem pole tour at the time. This is where the students learned about totem poles and they cast their vision for the pole: the owl, bear, and raven under the thunderbird. The pole is a “story pole” and tells the “story of the owl, bear, and raven before humans came into the world”. Kelly shared “the owl is located in the tail of a Killer Whale. The whale honors The Tulalip Tribes”.

When the tree was brought to the campus, students in the shop class helped with the carving of the pole during class and before and after school.

During the current restoration, Kelly’s son Marcelis (“Stella”) has served as Kelly’s apprentice helping him to restore the pole. Stella is a student at Totem Middle School. Other students also helped in the restoration process staining, priming, and painting the pole, joining Kelly throughout their school day.

“I am very honored to do this work. It is helping me in my own personal journey and it is like going back in time to when I originally carved the totem with the students”, said Kelly. “I am carrying on the work of my father”.

The restored totem pole will be erected at a special ceremony Thursday, June 24, at 11:00 am at Totem Middle School, 7th and State, Marysville. For more information, contact Keri Lindsay, Principal, keri_lindsay@msd25.org, or call (360) 965-0500.

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. 

Family Haven introduces new parenting program with an enticing raffle

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

If you are an expectant mother, first time parent or part of a blossoming family with children under the age of three, Tulalip Family Haven wants to hear from you. 

Throughout the years, the department has assisted Tulalip tribal members, the community, and members of other tribal nations by developing programs that cater to local youth, parents, and families. 

Through these programs, such as teen outreach, life skills, and a number of family-based programs, Family Haven provides their clients with educational tools and resources while building a space where the people they service can support and relate to one another, offer tips from personal experience, or simply lend a listening-ear to others in-need. 

No matter the program, Family Haven has made it their priority to ensure that their families, from birth to parenthood, are on-track and in the best position to meet their personal short and long-term goals. By providing all the necessary tools and support, Family Haven designed each of their programs to empower tribal youth and families. 

Keeping true to that successful formula, the department is introducing a new course to Tulalip. And they are doing it in a unique and fun way to engage people right off the bat and build a connection with local parents to better serve their needs.

“We’re officially launching Family Spirit,” said Sasha Smith, Family and Youth Support Coordinator for Family Haven. “We are accepting clients and want to get the word out. It has been really successful in other tribal communities and it’s evidenced-based, which is pretty hard to come by. It’s one of the very few.”

Tulalip News has the inside scoop on what the new program is and the specifics of everything that it entails. However, we will refrain from releasing this information just yet, at least until after June 25, when the winners of the Family Spirit promotional raffle are announced. 

Sasha shared, “For one-week people can call-in, ask questions and get familiar with the program and in turn they will be entered into the drawing. We bought fun raffle prizes for those that call-in and we’ll close it on June 25, and deliver the prizes that week. We would like to gain that relationship, get to know you and listen to your needs and wants as parents.”

Prizes include an InstaPot pressure cooker, a Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 car seat, and a summertime gift bundle that contains sidewalk chalk, bubble wands and a full-sized Radio Flyer wagon. 

“The biggest thing is having that personal connection and creating an opportunity to really talk,” Sasha stated. “Because what happens when people call-in and ask about the program, I get to understand a little bit more about them. We want to raise awareness to the community about [Family Spirit] and make sure that we are sharing those resources with them. If you or someone you know is pregnant, if you have little ones under the age of three, or if you just want to learn more about parenting, call us on up!”

To learn more about Family Spirit and to be entered into the giveaway, please contact Family Haven at (360) 716-4402.

‘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.