The Southern Ute Education Department honored tribal-member and local Native American graduates who earned anything from a GED diploma through a master’s degree on Saturday, June 22 at the Sky Ute Casino Resort.
Thirty-four graduates received recognition at the Southern Ute Education & Johnson O’Malley Annual Banquet. Each accepted a blanket from a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council.
The department also honored eight people for achieving a level of academic honors in their studies.
“Congratulations, and we’re so proud of you,” Department Director La Titia Taylor told the honorees. “As a Southern Ute tribal member working for the tribe for 20 years, I have seen so many people grow. … That’s what this program is all about: to move forward, to stand on your own two feet.”
Guest speaker Michelle Simmons, who graduated from Ignacio High School this year, encouraged her fellow graduates to use the momentum of their success to continue pursuing dreams.
“We’ve all already accomplished so much,” she said. “The sad thing is time just won’t stop ticking.”
Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. and Tribal Council members Alex S. Cloud and Ramona Y. Eagle were on hand to congratulate the graduates.
“I want to thank the parents for all of the work that you do,” Cloud said.
Eagle expressed a similar sentiment, saying the education of youth should be a top priority for the tribe.
“That’s what really matters: our children,” she said. “This is quite an honor to recognize all of them.”
Newton told the graduates to continue striving for excellence.
“The world we live in can be very challenging. As Indian people, we need that education to compete,” he said.