More than 50 Tribal departments, K-12 schools, tutoring companies and colleges distributed information about their programs to students and their parents, who came from every reservation.
Education advisers offered advice, while workshops taught students how to dress for success, write a resume and master public speaking. Seminole Media Productions also held a workshop that detailed video production and cutting-edge technology for those interested in pursuing careers in media.
“We want all Tribal members to have a good understanding of all the services education provides,” said Veronica Ramsundar, Higher Education program manager. “Students can learn about various opportunities available after graduation.”
The Expo also featured guest speakers to inspire students to continue their educations.
Actor Saginaw Grant, of the Sac and Fox Nation, spoke about the importance of culture and tradition, and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about his passion for heritage, family, education and basketball.
“My parents knew they could educate me through basketball,” said Spoelstra, a Filipino-American. “They forced me to do my homework and keep up my GPA or I couldn’t play this beautiful game I love.”
Basketball teaches discipline, commitment, accountability and teamwork, said Spoelstra, who has led the Miami Heat to two championships since taking the reins in 2008.
“But you can’t play unless you go to school,” he said. “They go hand in hand. My dream was basketball – yours may be something else. Find something that inspires you and chase that dream. Education is the pathway to all of your dreams.”
Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola addressed the future leaders of the Tribe by emphasizing the importance of supporting themselves by getting an education.
“School teaches you how to learn,” he said. “Then you can go into any field you want. Keep your mind open to what you are comfortable doing and make a career of that.”
Students, who received an excused absence from school to attend the Expo, came to the event for various reasons, but all were thinking ahead. Anthony Gentry, 13, a home-schooled seventh-grader, is interested in media and video production. He attended to learn about different schools. Dorian Jumper, 17, an 11th-grader at the Miccosukee School, was looking for technical colleges and information about ROTC.
“I came to see colleges and prepare for my future,” said Elisah Billie, 14, a ninth-grader at Ahfachkee School. “I’m looking for a web design school.”
Schools showcased included Dartmouth College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Atlantic University, Johnson & Wales University, Broward College, Nova Southeastern University and St. Thomas University. Tribal departments on hand included Native Learning Center, Information Technology, Seminole Police Department and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank knows the importance of investing in Tribal youth.
“We were the generation who had to learn English,” Rep. Frank said. “These young people will help ensure our future role in Indian Country.”
For more information about the Education Department, visit its new website at http://education.semtribe.com/.