Immokalee preschool’s 2018 graduating class was the school’s largest class ever with 15 children, but despite its size the May 3 graduation ceremony went off without a hitch. The eager young grads marched down the aisle as Pomp and Circumstance played over the sound system and family and friends cheered them on.
Decked out in colorful red caps and gowns trimmed with patchwork, the children introduced themselves to the audience in Mikasuki. The students learned to speak the language from culture teacher Tammy Billie, who worked diligently with them all year. She told the assembled crowd she taught them to speak Elaponke, or Mikasuki, as they would to an elder and to count to 20 this year instead of the usual 10.
Elected officials congratulated the young graduates with words of praise and advice. President Mitchell Cypress was sure they would all be Tribal leaders one day and told them to continue their education so they could come back and help their Tribe.
Immokalee Council Project Manager Ray Garza attended and cheered on his grandchildren.
“The next thing you know its high school and then college,” he said. “I see a lot of potential here.”
“This is a very proud day,” added Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger. “It won’t be long until I’m up here asking for their vote.”
The graduation ended with some parting words from preschool staff.
“Work hard, stay straight and may you stay in your spirit and soul forever young,” said Alejandra Ibarra, head teacher of the four-year-olds.
Preschool Director Michelle Ford addressed her comments to the parents.
“Today we give you back your child pounds heavier, inches taller and years wiser,” Ford said. “It has been our pleasure and privilege to marvel at the splendor of their development. We’ve lived, loved, laughed and enriched our lives together this year. They are all precious, special and unique. May angels always watch over and protect them as God has a plan for their lives.”
Big Cypress preschoolers took their place in the spotlight May 16 as they donned caps and gowns to get their preschool diplomas. The 14 proud graduates mostly made it down the aisle easily, but a few were distracted by grandparents or parents or maybe just wanted to get on stage in a hurry.
But first the little graduates entertained and showed off their skills with a program that began with the pledge of allegiance in Mikasuki and English and finished with songs in both languages. Tribal leaders were impressed.
“Back in my time we had one big classroom,” said President Mitchell Cypress. “We didn’t have preschool or head start. Today things have changed and these 14 graduates are going to the next level. I’m very proud of this class.”
Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger spoke with an eye to the future.
“They will be the leaders of the community one day,” he said. “My late grandmother and mother used to tell me education is everything and they knew what they were talking about. I want these kids to have the ability to learn and then come back to take care of this community.”
Big Cypress Board Representative Joe Frank thanked the parents for supporting their children.
“This graduation is an exciting time for them,” he said. “It is a good practice run for them, they will have many more opportunities but this is a good first one.”
Preschool Director Thommy Doud noted how much parental involvement has grown at the school and how important it is to the development of the children. Then he introduced guest speaker and Ahfachkee School Principal Dorothy Cain.
“We are happy to have a strong partnership with the preschool,” said Cain. “Our teachers are ready for the students. School is about learning and is extremely important. We teachers are the educators and without us, no other profession would exist.”
Cain had a message for the parents and grandparents in the room.
“We give our children lots of choices, but we want to be there to catch them if they fall,” Cain said. “We are their guide and push them to move forward. Never step away, you always need to be there even in middle and high school. That’s the time to tighten up, that’s when they need you the most to guide them on their path.”
The Brighton Preschool class of 2018 marched down the aisle May 18 and accepted what was rightly theirs – a preschool diploma. As is the tradition in Brighton, the preschoolers were flanked by parents as they walked down the aisle to receive their diplomas.
Each one of the 16 children earned the document after years of learning shapes, colors, numbers, and how to follow directions and play nicely with others.
The young grads also boasted knowledge of culture and language by saying the Manteele, pledge of allegiance and singing songs in Creek thanks to the hard work of the Brighton culture department.
As a thank you for years of service to the preschool, the department was given an award for their commitment and dedication to the preschool students.
Tribal dignitaries spoke about the importance of the day. President Mitchell Cypress thanked the staff and the parents for all they do since these children are the Tribe’s future leaders.
“They are our future and are who we look to to carry the torch one day,” said Brighton Board Representative Larry Howard.
Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. spoke to the parents.
“One day these youngsters will grow up but you must stay with them every step of the way,” he said. “Don’t lose sight of them. Stay with them even when they are old enough to reach their own way of thinking.”
It’s not every day Miami Heat mascot Burnie and two members of the HEAT dancers come to Tribal Headquarters, but it made perfect sense at the sports-themed graduation for the Hollywood Preschool class of 2018.
Nineteen youngsters took to the stage in the Hollywood auditorium May 23 for a string of performances – songs, poems and dance – in front of more than 120 family members and friends.
On the stage to hand the kids their diplomas were Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, President Mitchell Cypress and Hollywood Board Representative Gordon Wareham.
The audience was treated to a slideshow with pictures of the graduates as Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played in the background.
After the ceremony, the kids received sports-themed gift bags, a lunch of tailgate-style food, face-painting and pictures with Burnie.