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Tribe prepares students for new school year

Hollywood Council community affairs specialist Francine Osceola, left, gives backpacks to Ciara Billie, right, and her kids. (Photo Damon Scott)

Seminole students had some help preparing for the new school year at the Education Department’s “Back to School Bashes” on reservations in August.

Tribal departments set up tables that overflowed with backpacks, notebook paper, pens and pencils, water bottles, cell phone accessories, cute stickers, markers, snacks and other necessities needed to get through a school day. Students examined the backpacks and chose carefully.

In Immokalee on Aug. 9, kids received what they needed for school, played in a few bounce houses, ate a hearty lunch of burgers and hot dogs and some sweet treats from an ice cream truck.

“Congratulations to everybody for moving on to the next grade,” said Immokalee Council Liaison Raymond Garza Sr. “We want to show the kids we appreciate them and want them to stay in school. We are behind them every step of the way.”

Immokalee Board Liaison Rafael Sanchez remarked that it was good to see everyone and encouraged parents to keep pushing their children to go to school.

Representatives from Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College gave presentations about their schools.

The Big Cypress Reservation held their ‘bash’ Aug. 12 at the rodeo grounds, where most of the chickees were taken over by tribal departments giving out supplies and treats. Kids played in bounce houses and enjoyed burgers, hot dogs, fruit and ice cream.

“We want all the kids to get what they need for school to get their first day going and be prepared,” said Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie. “Back to school is always stressful; we are trying to make it easier.”

“They should get all their supplies, enjoy and have fun before school starts and they get their heads in the books,” said Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers. “It’s good to see tribal kids and watch them grow up.”

Students were looking forward to the new year with anticipation and perhaps some trepidation.

“I’m looking forward to being with my friends again,” said Kallie Yzaguirre, 13, a ninth grader. “Immokalee High School is a much bigger school, but I’ll get used to it after a while.”

Other students had more specific goals for the year. Dakota Mariscal, 12, a seventh grader at Immokalee Middle School, wanted to master multiplication. Lynn Osceola, 9, a third grader at Stirling Elementary, is ready to tackle science this year and plans to succeed.

“I’m focusing on my grades, getting better at reading and math and trying not to fail,” said Alice Billie, 14, an eighth grader at the Ahfachkee School. “I look forward to seeing my friends and teachers.”

“I can’t wait to go back to the art room,” added Jaylee Jimmie, 16, an 11th grader at Ahfachkee. “I’m going to try to maintain a good GPA and be more involved in my community.”

The Hollywood Reservation’s “Back to School Bash” was held at the Seminole Estates on Aug. 9. The Hollywood Council Office sponsored the event.

Students and parents visited about a dozen booths staffed by various tribal departments, including the Boys & Girls Club, Housing, Education, Human Resources, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Health Education, the Hollywood Board Office, the Chairman’s Office and more.

The goal was to give out backpacks, school supplies and other goodies, as well as provide information for interested students and parents. Families also enjoyed a catered lunch and a DJ who was spinning tunes while the kids cooled off in the pool and at the waterpark.

One student, 15-year-old Maddox Motlow, assisted the staff at the Boys & Girls Club booth as part of a Hollywood Education Department community service project. Motlow attends the NSU University School in Davie.

Neil Baxley, right, directed his kids from booth to booth at Hollywood’s “Back to School Bash.” (Photo Damon Scott)
Alice Billie learns to do CPR chest compressions from Seminole Fire Rescue firefighter Kevin Sayles at the Immokalee event. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Lovely Carter helps her children Sienna, Braylen and Zhane Carter choose backpacks at the Big Cypress “Back to School Bash.” (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Kenny Tommie and his stepdaughter Ariana visit the booths at the Hollywood event. (Photo Damon Scott)
From the piles of colorful backpacks in Immokalee, Talia Fuller chose this pink camo backpack to get her through second grade at the Ahfachkee School. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Kids in Immokalee enjoy some late summer fun as they slide in bubbles before heading back to school. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Maddox Motlow, in foreground, helped at t he Boys & Girls Club booth as part of the Education Department’s Hollywood community service project. (Photo Damon Scott)
Malari Baker, left, and Indra Fredericks, from the Chairman’s Office, gave each attendee a bag with a pair of Seminole branded flip-flops. (Photo Damon Scott)

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