TULSA, Okla. — A group of high school graduates at Tulsa Public Schools has something more to celebrate this week after being honored by the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission (GTIAC).
It selected 12 seniors as "Indian Education Students of Excellence" for 2020 in the school district's Indian Education Program.
"We take a look at their academics, their cultural participation, just a number of things how active they are in the schools," says Shari Williams, a resource advisor.
There are more than 3,000 Native American students enrolled in the program, which provides career fairs, academic competitions, tutoring and more to connect students with their Native American heritage.
Because of the pandemic, this year's traditional ceremony to recognize the students was canceled. However, Williams says the award recipients were given a certificate and were given a letter by the GTIAC.
"Being able to celebrate and be a part of the traditions is very important because it prepares for the future to be able to grow that community," says Joseph Sullivan, one of the students of excellence.
The 18-year-old senior is graduating from Booker T. Washington High School this week. He belongs to the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribe represented in the school district.
"Native culture is very diverse and curriculum sometimes fails to capture it, but this program really does a great job of expanding opportunities to students within it," says Sullivan.
He's honored to be recognized for his achievements and plans on studying English at the University of Oklahoma (OU) this fall.
"I'm declaring pre-law, so hopefully in the future I can protect the sovereignty of our tribes," says Sullivan.
Another proud recipient of the award this year is Emily Workman, a high school senior at Edison Preparatory School and part of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation.
"It’s nice to know that somebody acknowledges that I’ve worked hard throughout high school. It’s kind of shocking too because there’s so many Native American students," says Workman.
She is also enrolled at OU and plans on studying biology and pre-med.
The 2020 Indian Education Students of Excellence are:
- Andrew Carpenter, Hale High School (Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma)
- Dailyn Seals, East Central High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
- Dominique Kilgore, Daniel Webster High School (Cherokee Nation)
- Emily Workman, Edison Preparatory High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
- Kiontay Walker, McLain High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
- Kitana Foreman, Street School (United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians)
- Kobe Spencer, Daniel Webster High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
- Joseph Sullivan, Booker T. Washington High School (Cherokee Nation)
- Lyric Hawkins, Memorial High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
- Madyson Houston, Will Rogers College High School (Pawnee Nation)
- Rio Martinez, Tulsa MET High School (Citizen Potawatomi Nation)
- Tyasha Trimble, Central High School (Mvskoke Creek Nation)
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