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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 31, 2003 - Issue 88


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Getting Off On the Right Foot

by Harold Reutter The Grand Island Independent

Javanna Foote recieves her diplomaJavanna Foote gets a big smile when she's reminded that she made history last Saturday night.

That's when Foote stepped across the stage in the west gym at Grand Island Senior High to get her high school diploma. In the midst of high school graduation season, that simple act may not have seemed especially historic, but it was.

That's because Foote is the first person to get her diploma by completing her studies at the on-site Swift & Co. Multicultural Education Center.

People from the Nebraska Department of Education, Swift, Grand Island schools and the community at large celebrated the opening of the educational center last fall.

The center was designed specifically to serve students between the ages of 18 and 21.

That's just a little bit older than the traditional high school student. But those couple of extra years can make many people feel very much out of place in high school.

After age 21, the only route to receiving a high school education is a GED. For many nontraditional students, the GED remains an excellent route to furthering their educations and their careers.

The Swift program, though, offers a middle way between receiving a diploma after four years of traditional high school and the GED.

Superintendent Steve Joel promised that anybody who received a diploma through the Swift program would be able to participate in Senior High's commencement program.

And that is exactly what Foote did.

"I was scared and nervous, but I was happy," Foote said on Thursday, recalling the moment when she received the diploma.

She said it was important to her to participate in the public commencement. Foote said neither her mother -- who is studying in South Dakota to be a registered nurse -- nor her grandmother were able to make the trip to Grand Island to see her graduate. But her graduation was still witnessed by family.

"Both my aunties were there," Foote said.

Many of Foote's high school credits were earned at Pine Ridge and Marty Indian schools in South Dakota.

Foote encountered some troubles in school, though, and left short of the credits she needed to graduate. She came to Grand Island, where she went to work for Swift. It was one of her aunts who saw the flyer about the Swift program and encouraged her to enroll.

She said she needed to pass a writing test, as well as math. Math is far from her favorite subject, she noted.

In fact, she was so afraid of taking the final tests that she was wanting to put off the final examinations until June. But Beverly Pop, the teacher in the Swift program, pushed her to take the tests just in time to participate in Senior High's commencement.

In fact, Pop was not afraid to keep applying pressure on Foote all the way through to stay with her studies, said Foote, who also appreciates Swift for its role in starting the program.

"I'd like to thank Swift for giving me the opportunity to study for my high school diploma," she said.

Pop hopes that Foote getting her diploma will encourage other students to continue with their studies at the Swift Multicultural Education Center. Students and staff had pizza on Thursday to celebrate Foote's graduation, as well as the completion of two courses by Walter Lopez and Byron Lopez.

Byron Lopez, 19, just completed his geometry course and is now studying biology.

He noted that his own troubles at Senior High were about to send him to Progress School. He was just about to start a new job at Swift when people told him about the Swift Multicultural Education Center.

With his 3:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. job at Swift, the on-site program works out much better for him, Lopez said. "I can work at my pace. I work on stuff that I can, as fast as I can."

Pop said that, if Lopez stays with it, he should earn his diploma by December 2004.

Lopez said he's not sure if he wants to participate in commencement the way Foote did, but that's a distinct possibility.

"My parents will probably want me to do it," he said.

In any case, Lopez said he's glad for the Swift program, noting that many of his friends are no longer in school. He sees a high school diploma as a key to doing something better in life.

Foote noted that her own plans include taking a year off from school and then enrolling in the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D., to become an registered nurse.

Nursing would put her in the footsteps of her mother, her grandmother and her grandmother's sister.

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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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