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Tribe lauds Hollywood grads for their efforts

HOLLYWOOD — School can be tough enough in the best of circumstances. But for those students who happened to be high school or college seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic it meant negotiating even more challenges. The tribe took note of those graduates July 8 at a dinner at the Hard Rock in Hollywood to recognize Hollywood, Fort Pierce and Broward County nonresidents who had recently received their diplomas.

The graduates were treated to a meal, received lots of gifts and many words of praise and encouragement.

“Whether graduating from high school, trade school or university, each one of you should be proud of how far you have come. Education is why we will always remain unconquered,” Hollywood Board Representative Christine McCall said.

2021 graduate Arissa Cypress was honored by Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola and his office during a dinner July 8 at Seminole Hard Rock. (Photo Damon Scott)

Family members were there to support the graduates, as well as President Mitchell Cypress and staff from the Center for Student Success and Services department. Hollywood Councilman Christopher Osceola emceed the festivities throughout the night.

“We are proud of the new class of 2021,” President Cypress said. “Last year, 2020, was a rough year for everybody, but we survived.”

Councilman Osceola encouraged the graduates to take advantage of the support the tribe provides.

2021 graduate James Kyle Grant spoke to the audience at the ceremony at the Hard Rock. (Photo Damon Scott)

“The tribe always supports education, so you have an amazing opportunity in front of you, an opportunity that a lot of people don’t have,” he said. “You can take your education as far as you want to, as far as you can go, and the tribe will support you. We need educated people to come back and run this tribe. You will take us to the next level.”

Councilman Osceola said the tribe’s support isn’t only for graduates who decide on a more traditional route like college, but also for those who want to work within the Hard Rock.

“You can work in an executive position in Hard Rock someday, pretty much anywhere in the world where you want to go,” he said.

There were two featured speakers at the dinner, Miss Florida Seminole, Durante Blais-Billie, and NBA player for the Miami Heat, Udonis Haslem.

“The education system in the U.S., it wasn’t meant for us. It was meant for people who wanted us to assimilate to their education standards, but we made a way to survive in it. We made a way to make our presence have an impact,” Blais-Billie said. “Thank yourself for the perseverance you had in the systems which are very difficult sometimes, even though they can be very fun. Thank yourself for the dedication and the time you’ve put in.”

Haslem has been a guest speaker for graduates several times. He said he considers the tribe part of his extended family.

“I was supposed to come and inspire you guys, but you guys inspire me,” Haslem said. “One thing I do know about life is that regardless of where you’re going and what you do, you need good people around you and you need resources. And you have both.”

College graduates in attendance were Cameron Osceola, Skyla Osceola and Jay Holata. High school graduates in attendance were Arissa Cypress, Johnny Osceola, Lena Stubbs, Aden Cypress, James Kyle Grant, Faith Johns and Lyle Osceola. The Hollywood Council Office organized the event.

Former Miami Heat player Udonis Haslem, left, and Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola share a laugh at the graduation dinner at the Hard Rock. (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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