On Thursday, June 16, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Education, School and Community Relations Division hosted the 10th Annual Graduation Recognition Banquet at the Talking Stick Resort Ballroom. Fifty-one graduates and their families were invited to a celebratory dinner, where they were recognized for their academic accomplishments and hard work in pursuing their education.
This year, enrolled Community members earned 24 high school diplomas, 11 certificates/diplomas, eight associate degrees, four bachelor’s degrees and four master’s degrees.
The banquet opened with an invocation by SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier. Master of ceremonies was SRPMIC Social Worker I Robert Hickem, and entertainment was provided by the Royal Islanders.
“This is a fantastic Community that supports education from early childhood through higher education. With the support of the Community, education is put on a very high pedestal. Tonight is a special event in the fact that we are recognizing the accomplishments from our high school students’ diplomas to our adults with certificates and degrees. All I can say is, tonight should be a celebration, but also the beginning of a new step,” said Dr. Gregory Sackos, SRPMIC Schools superintendent, as he welcomed all Community members and guests.
“A word of advice for everybody is take every opportunity, [whether it’s] with a certificate, diploma [or] a degree, and use that to your advantage for your next decision, career or endeavor to get the highest degree possible. What’s important for all Communities is we foster and build leaders, and those [students] will most likely give back what they’ve attained,” added Sackos.
The banquet continued with presentation of the Roxie Andrews Perseverance Award to Deysi Salazar, who recently graduated from Westwood High School. Director of School and Community Relations Chris Dinehdeal and School Attendance Officer Kathy Toney presented the first-ever Roxie Andrews Perseverance Award to Salazar, who has endured many obstacles in her life but still found a way to graduate and obtain her high school diploma.
The award is named in honor of Community member Roxie Andrews, who worked in education for 35 years and recently retired. Dinehdeal described Andrews and how she encouraged students to continue their education and always had the best interests at heart for her Community. He said, “Those who know Roxie know that she’s endured and overcome a lot of obstacles in her life. Roxie never gave up, and she continues to motivate others to make changes, pursue their passion and live their dreams.”
As guests enjoyed dinner and entertainment, they helped the students celebrate this major milestone in their lives. Laughter and music lingered in the Talking Stick Resort ballroom as the graduates enjoyed a night that was all about them.
After dinner, the names of the graduates were announced and each came up on stage to receive a plaque and congratulations from Harvier, SRPMIC school board members, and Council Members Deanna Scabby, David Antone and Michael Dallas.
“A lot of you have a lot of support, like ‘scaffolding’ (a construction term), that will help you get to the certain levels that you’re at. Some of you will still use scaffolding because you still have visions and goals for what you want in your life. That’s very important to keep those goals and to keep striving for what you want in your life. That support system is still going to be there,” said Harvier as he encouraged all graduates to take time to thank their family members and school faculty.
“Hopefully the knowledge that you’ve gained will carry you on. You’ve set that example that it can be done. You’re an example to your younger siblings; if you’re a parent, you’re an example to your children, to your relatives and to your Community. I will continue to encourage you to strive and achieve your goals. We have such opportunities here and we continue to take them for granted. Continue to encourage your children, your relatives and yourself to continue your education to help yourself. It’s often said that they can’t take [education and knowledge] away from you, and they can’t,” said Harvier as he expressed his heartfelt closing remarks.