On the evening of June 18, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Education Department, with the support of numerous entities, honored Community members for their academic achievements with a recognition dinner at the Talking Stick Resort. The event included a full agenda, dinner and entertainment provided by Native American comedy act James and Ernie.
Master of ceremonies Michael Douglas of the SRPMIC Recreation Department introduced SRPMIC’s interim school superintendent, Cynthia Clary, Ed.D., who provided a welcome address in which she strongly encouraged the students to continue their progress and become leaders in the Community.
SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., spoke to the audience to welcome them, provide words of encouragement and praise for their achievements, extend his appreciation to the families who support the graduates, and to express heartfelt wishes to the graduates. President Ray said, “It is a privilege to honor the achievements of our Community members and to shake hands with the families. To the families, it is an honor to say congratulations and thanks for your endeavors, and especially for supporting your students.”
Ray stated, “We have all types of students present today. I met a young mother who is raising three children and she was able to obtain her college degree. … As a community, we are always looking at ways to better ourselves, and by your graduation [efforts], you have taken us another notch higher.
“I am sure it was not easy to reach your goals, but you have done it! You have ‘crossed the line’ and have received your reward—your certificate or diploma,” Ray pronounced.
SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier also spoke and offered additional words of encouragement to the graduates, and he expressed his appreciation for the hard work they put into getting their degrees. Harvier stated, “I want to personally congratulate all of you on your [individual] level of education you received. It is never too late to go back to school.”
Martin shared the story of one Tribal Council member’s efforts to return to school and earn two associate degrees. He said, “Sometimes in life it just takes time to realize where you are and that it is important to have an education. I encourage you to keep going; it is something you will always have and it is something no one can ever take away from you.”
He added, “As President Ray mentioned, the Tribal Council is very supportive of education … we are all supportive of education because it is very important.”
In addition, recognition was extended to all the Tribal Council members and those present, to the school board members, and to the Education Department staff.
Each graduate was called to receive a recognition certificate from the SRPMIC Education Department and the opportunity to have their photo taken by a photographer next to the stage.
The graduates received their high school diploma or GED; associate degrees in art, applied science in graphic design, Christian ministry and medical assisting; and other degree types. Other graduates earned bachelor of science degrees in applied management, business administration, interdisciplinary studies, hospitality management and other fields.
Each graduate has his or her own story to mark this achievement, their journey and the challenges they faced in obtaining their degree. All of the SRPMIC graduates, at every level along the educational-achievement spectrum, are role models for their Community.
Peter Chacon’s Story
Community member Peter Chacon attended two different high schools in the West Valley area of Phoenix, and unfortunately he ended up dropping out of high school. He stated, “I finally decided to get my act together, with the help and support of an uncle. I decided to get my GED, which [I was able to obtain] in 2012. In 2013, I started going to Glendale Community College, and [I also took classes] at Rio Salado College at the same time. I even took summer-session classes. After I finished [my credits at Rio Salado], I was asked [by the school] to be a motivational speaker to other students at the school.”
Chacon said, “I talk to students [at Rio Salado] about the type of person I was before I went to college, and what my life was like and what I went through before I went back to school. And I [tell] them how I have become a first-generation college student in my family. I [am proud] I can show my younger cousins that it is not all about gangs [and the road that may lead to prison], but that there is a way out.
“This past May I graduated from Glendale Community College. I am enrolled at Arizona State University and am looking to get a degree in the computer science field [in programming and development].” Chacon emphasized, “I do have a younger cousin who has taken the tour [at a college], and I hope he is the next generation of our family to go to college. I hope there is someone else to take my place to show them there is a way out [and up].”