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Graduation celebrated at Ahfachkee, Moore Haven

About 60 Tribal students earned their high school diplomas or GEDs recently, as family and friends celebrated their accomplishments at graduation ceremonies.

Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank and Cicero Osceola, who was Big Cypress Councilman at the time, greet GED graduate Michelle Jimmie Garcia after the Ahfachkee graduation ceremony May 25. (Beverly Bidney photo)

Ahfachkee graduates GraySun Billie and Nashoba Gonzalez and GED graduate Michelle Jimmie Garcia wore caps and gowns decorated with patchwork and beadwork as they walked down the aisle May 25 to receive diplomas from Principal Dorothy Cain.

Tribal officials welcomed the graduates to adulthood in Big Cypress’s Herman Osceola Gym.

“Congratulations on completing this phase of being a young Tribal member and getting your education and diploma,” said Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank. “We want you to continue your education and take the path to self-realization.”

Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. recognized the 18 years of work parents did to get their children to this milestone and also addressed the students.

“There are a lot of people to congratulate today, but mostly yourselves,” Chairman Osceola said. “Give yourselves a hand.”

Principal Cain told them that graduation defines a new stage of their lives.

“The future is in your hands, no one else’s,” she said. “Seize this opportunity.”

Cain then quoted a 2005 Stanford University commencement address given by the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Beaming graduates GraySun Billie, Michelle Jimmie Garcia and Nashoba Gonzalez pose together during the Ahfachkee graduation ceremony. (Beverly Bidney photo)

Former Ahfachkee teacher Jarrid Smith gave the commencement address. He conveyed to the students the importance of loving what they do for a living. He teaches because he has a passion for it and it brings him joy.

“We’ve all been given different gifts. You may not know exactly what they are right now, but there are great things in store for you,” Smith said. “No matter what you do, there may be a time in your life you may doubt yourself. Just keep believing in yourself and in God and you will come out on top.”

In Moore Haven, the Terriers bid adieu to 51 seniors. There was plenty of patchwork in the audience as five Tribal members – Ruben Burgess Jr., Sydnee Cypress, Logan Ortiz, River Osceola and Eric Puente – received their diplomas.

The ceremony, held in the Glades County Auditorium next door to the high school, started on a sentimental note as all the seniors left their seats on stage and journeyed into the audience where they gave one rose to who meant a lot to them during their high school career. Hugs, kisses and some tears ensued. When the students returned to their seats, softball coach Clint Raulerson told the audience that was about the best thing he’s ever seen at a graduation ceremony.

Class president and the softball team’s star softball pitcher Olivia Everett delivered remarks for her classmates.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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