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Hollywood graduates recognized at Hard Rock dinner

Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola introduces Paulina Alexis, left, a Native actor who plays Willie Jack on the popular TV series Reservation Dogs. (Damon Scott)

HOLLYWOOD – Hollywood’s high school and higher education graduates were recognized for their accomplishments June 2 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. The office of Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola organized the event.

“The tribe is behind you 100%. The councilman and myself will do what we can to make sure that you’re successful, but it’s up to you to take advantage of that chance before you,” Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., said to begin the night. “Whatever you do, make sure you love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life.”

The graduates and their families were treated to dinner and two guest speakers. The first was tribal member and Florida State University graduate Kyle Doney, who has also worked for the tribe for 25 years. He’s currently the deputy director of the Native Learning Center in Hollywood.

“The tribe has offered me a lot of opportunities. I want to encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, because I know we get comfortable doing the same routine over and over,” Doney said. “I want to say congratulations to each one of you. There’s a lot of potential in here.”

The second guest speaker was Paulina Alexis (Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation) a Native actor who plays Willie Jack on the popular TV series Reservation Dogs, which features Native Americans in front of and behind the camera.

“I just want to say to you guys, always enjoy the moment. You worked so hard for this and you’re never going to get this time back,” Alexis said. “Whatever you decide to do now, follow your heart. Surround yourself with good people who love you, because people who want the best for you want you to be your best, and you owe it to yourself.”

Councilman Osceola read the names of 29 graduates, who were each called to the stage to receive congratulations and gifts from the Hollywood Council Office and the Education Department.

“The graduate rate is going up every year for the tribe – that’s something to be proud of,” Osceola said. “One of the worst things I think a kid can do is drop out of school.”

The high school graduates in attendance were Estelle Billie, Aniya Cypress, Nikko Doctor, Shyla Holata, Bailey Marie Osceola Latchford, Theron Osceola and Genesis Pagan. The higher education graduates in attendance were Mariah Bowers, Jay Holata and Rochelle Osceola. Everett Osceola took to the stage to represent his daughter, Xiora Osceola, who was not in attendance.

“If you’re a tribal member, you’re probably one of the luckiest people in the world. You might not think that today, because you’re still a young person and you haven’t seen enough in your life,” Councilman Osceola said. “The tribe has come a long way and we’re able to provide the resources for tribal members to pursue their education anywhere in the world, whatever your passion is, whatever your desire is – everything is up to you.”

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at