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Tribe celebrates its Hollywood class of 2022

Chef Stephanie “Pyet” DeSpain talked to graduates about her life and career. (Photo Damon Scott)

HOLLYWOOD — The Seminole Tribe held a celebration of its Hollywood-area high school graduates and those who have received advanced degrees at an event July 26 at the Seminole Estates on the Hollywood Reservation.

Hollywood and Broward County graduates and their families enjoyed a catered meal before graduates took to the stage to be recognized by Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. They received a slew of graduation gifts on the way back to their seats.

Chef Stephanie “Pyet” DeSpain (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas) was the guest speaker who talked about her life and career and sought to motivate the students to create a successful future for themselves and their communities.

“I had to crawl my way up the ladder not only as a chef but also as a female and as an Indigenous woman,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain, 31, was the winner of the first season of Gordon Ramsay’s “Next Level Chef” TV series. DeSpain is well known for creating Indigenous fusion cuisine, which combines the food of her Native American and Mexican heritages.

“You have resources in this room that can take you however far you want to go in life. That decision is up to you,” DeSpain said. “Be proud of what you’re passionate about. Be proud about who you are and about your culture and upbringing and make sure that you never dim your light for anyone.”

The event was emceed by Councilman Osceola and organized by the Hollywood Council Office.

“One thing I can’t stress enough to you is the opportunity that you have in front of you,” Councilman Osceola said to the graduates. “You have your parents who are going to support you along the way, but you also have the Seminole Tribe of Florida that’s going to support you in your decisions. We’re going to give you all the resources you need to make your dreams come true. Find what your passion is and get after it.”

The 2022 high school graduates are Elyse Alvarado, Petra Battiest, Griffin Billie, Ashlee Cypress, Jarred Cypress, Bruce Deitz Jr., Clarice DeMayo, LeAnne Diaz, Kylie Drake, Dathan Garcia, Jahniyah Henry, Madison Jumper, Jennie Osceola, MaryJane Osceola, Samuel Osceola, Rafael Ramirez, Ja’Kailee Stewart, Skye Stubbs and Trace Wilcox. Those recognized for receiving higher education degrees in 2022 are Kyle Doney, Carson John-Carney, Bradley Latchford, Tomie Motlow and Mia Sapp.

Many of the graduates in attendance took to the stage and thanked their families, the tribe and members of the Education Department staff for their support.

“I’d like to thank my mom – she’s helped me through everything. She’s been my mom and my dad,” Drake said. “I’d like to thank my uncles and my grandma for helping instill the love of music and my family and my life. And I want to thank the entire tribe – just being a part of it is a blessing and I think it everyday.”

Laptop computers are among the gifts graduates will receive from the Hollywood Council Office.

“I want to thank the tribe, first of all, for giving me the opportunity from elementary to high school,” Stubbs said. “And to my family – especially my dad and my late mom – for believing in me.”

High school graduate Griffin Billie receives a graduation sash from Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. (Photo Damon Scott)
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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 damonscott@semtribe.com.
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