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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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American Indian Students Honored

by George Fairbanks Bimidji Pioneer

Cap and DiplomaBemidji High School's American Indian students, their families and friends were honored Tuesday night at the 14th annual American Indian Senior Honors Banquet.

This year's graduating class consisted of 26 students with a variety of backgrounds and interests.

Lee Cook, the executive director of Bemidji State University's American Indian Resource Center, was the event's keynote speaker.

Cook reminded the audience that many school districts across the country expect their American Indian students to drop out of school. Because of that perception, those schools often force those students out of school.

With that, he praised the 26 BHS graduating students for their commitment and dedication to education.

Cook also reflected that when he went to college, only 12 American Indian students in Minnesota were attending a higher education institute.

Through the years, that number steadily rose, he said.

In fact, Cook told the audience he doesn't think anyone can match the higher education success of American Indian students over the last 25 years.

Again, Cook said the success of American Indian students can be attributed to their commitment and self discipline.

"Nobody has had to put up with the kind of adversity than our people," Cook said.

Cook also challenged the students to continue their education and then become leaders within their communities.

American Indian governments need more people with college educations, he said. "We need Indian leaders."

Vince Beyl, the director of Bemidji School District's Indian Education Program, emceed the event.

Like Cook, Beyl praised the students for becoming successful students.

Through the last 14 years, the banquet has seen a steady increase in graduates.

"We started out with eight graduates as I recall," Beyl said. "I cannot say enough about these 26 students."

Beyl also praised the staff at each of the district's schools for helping the students develop as they grew up and advanced through school.

Additionally, the volunteers who helped with the walleye dinner, were presented with jars of homemade maple syrup.

Beyl also drew attention to the hard work of the Indian Education Program's other staff members: Eileen Johnson, Stan Drew and Dan Lemon.

Beyl and Johnson also told the audience some of the students had probably grown a tired of constantly being asked how their school work was going.

"Some of them don't even want to look at us right now," Johnson said with a smile. "But you made it!"

Like Cook, Johnson also spoke of the pride students and families should take in the graduation.

"A lot of times people don't realize how hard it is for an Indian student to graduate," Johnson said.

Johnson was thanked by the parents, families and friends of all the graduates for taking the time to help the students find success.

Each student was presented with a plaque and certificate. As they came forward to receive their award, each student brought with them an adult who helped them through school.

There were also scholarship awards. An anonymous family presented two $100 scholarships to the class.

Those awards were presented to Alton Beaulieu and Shayna May.

Amber Fuhrman was presented the $500 Derek Brown Memorial Scholarship.

The vast majority of the 26 graduates are planning to continue their education at a post-secondary institution.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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