Students had graduation gowns neatly pressed and caps and tassels squared away for a packed crowd in the Miccosukee Indian School gymnasium.
MIS marked the students’ 2018 graduation milestone May 16 on the Tamiami Trail Reservation.
Family and friends of the students gathered at long tables decorated with flowers and glossy programs while food was prepared in the adjacent cafeteria. Dotting the circumference of the gym were stanchions with large TVs displaying the MIS emblem on the screens.
After the presentation of colors by the Miccosukee Police Department, the third- and fourth-grade students led the crowd of about 300 in the Miccosukee Pledge.
Little Cypress Osceola and Garrett Rockwell served as the masters of ceremony for the event and kicked it off by announcing the opening procession. The procession and graduation included students in the Early Learning Center, kindergarten, fifth grade, eighth grade and senior class – 49 graduates in all.
After the procession, administrators and the Miccosukee Tribal Business Council were recognized and several made comments. Miccosukee General Council representatives at the event included Assistant Chairman Roy Cypress Jr., Secretary Talbert Cypress, Lawmaker Petties Osceola Jr. and Treasurer Jerry Cypress.
The keynote speaker for the event was Jason Simon, a former National Hockey League player for the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders and member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation of the city of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
Simon, who is now a motivational speaker and youth fitness coordinator, told the students about his life in the NHL and about his struggle with drugs and alcohol after retirement. He particularly addressed the seven seniors who were seated on stage. Simon spoke about the importance of family and community and of setting short and long term life goals.
After Simon’s keynote, teachers from each of the respective classes took to the podium to announce the Student of the Year awards. The awards went to Jamere Osceola for primary school, Kristyanna Tigertail-Alicea for intermediate school, Jayden Billie for middle school, and Cedric Sanders for high school.
The presentation of diplomas commenced with each student walking on stage to shake hands with the Business Council. Many students also gave the seniors who were seated on stage high fives as they made their way off stage.
Last but not least was the presentation of diplomas to the senior class. Before the diplomas were handed out, a slideshow presentation appeared on each of the TV screens with photographs of the seniors from their early years through their school years.
The senior class of Demetric Billie, Saige Osceola, Cedric Sanders, Kailani Osceola, Davena Osceola, Charlie Osceola and Skaila Tiger then went back on stage to receive their diplomas. Each senior addressed the crowd, thanking teachers, family and friends for their love and support.
After an end of the year schoolwide slideshow, the graduates made their way out of the gym with their families and friends, diplomas in hand, for a luncheon reception.