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Students honored for academic achievements

McKenna Smith is congratulated by Elizabeth Shelby, education outreach advisor for Tampa, during an awards ceremony hosted by the Center for Student Success and Services on Aug. 8 in Davie. (Li Cohen photo)

DAVIE, Fla. — The school year may have just started, but recognizing academic accomplishments does not have a set term.

To bring in the new academic year and motivate students to pursue high academic standards, the Center for Student Success and Services honored students’ academic achievements from the 2016-17 school year Aug. 8 at Signature Grand in Davie.

CSSS staff recognized recent high school graduates and students who maintained perfect attendance and/or maintained a 2.5 GPA or higher. Students from all reservations were included in the ceremony, where they received medals and certificates for their accomplishments.

Randall Budde, CSSS director, congratulated students on their hard work throughout the past year. He encouraged students to remain proactive in their endeavors and strive to improve every day.
“Do well in school for yourself,” he said. “By being a proactive person, nothing will get in your way.”

Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola told students that they should look to the successes of fellow tribal members to motivate them. Nearly 150 tribal members are pursuing higher education in college, vocational and technical schools. Sixty-five of those students graduated just this summer and he explained that is something to be proud of.

“Those [students] who go all the way and graduate, you’re setting a great example for the rest of the kids out there,” Councilman Osceola said. “[Students] have a unique opportunity here at the tribe. You can be as educated as you want to be here. … When you get out of high school you can go to any college you want to. There are bigger and better things out there.”

One of those recent graduates, basketball standout Skyla Osceola, recalled how it was the motivation to succeed that helped her graduate from American Heritage School and obtain a full scholarship to Nova Southeastern University. Although she felt directionless for a brief time while recovering from a serious basketball injury in her junior year, she wanted nothing more than to succeed, even if that meant changing her direction.

“I knew God put me through that for a reason and I got through it,” she said. “I’m going to major in exercise and sports science. I’m going to graduate college and I’m going to make my family proud.”

As the ceremony ended and families congratulated students for their accomplishments, the words of Councilman Osceola continued ringing.

“One thing nobody can ever take away from you is your education. Once you have an education you have it for the rest of your life,” he said.


Li Cohen
When she isn't drinking a [probably excessive] cup of coffee, Li is reading and writing about local, national and international news. She can also be seen running around NYC in preparation of marathon season and travelling to new lands. Make sure to check out her work at, send her an email at and follow her journeys on Twitter (@WritingLiYakira) and Instagram (@LiYakira).

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