The Red Lake New Beginnings Program graduated its biggest class on May 20.
“We had the largest GED graduation ever for Red Lake. A total of 82 received certificates,” said New Beginnings Director Marv Hanson, “although 20 chose not to participate in the graduation ceremonies.”
The graduates were smudged as they entered the Seven Clans Casino Event Center on the Red Lake Indian Reservation to the drum of Eyabay.
"Let there be no doubt, that you are an accomplished graduate," Hanson told the assembled graduates. "All the hard work has paid off, all the tests that you have taken to receive this diploma, you are now educationally accomplished."
After an opening prayer by spiritual advisor Leland Whitefeather, congratulatory remarks were provided by school superintendent Brent Gish, Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., and tribal executive administrator Lea Perkins.
“Minogiizhigad, "It is truly, a very good day," began Gish. "I would suggest that it's a great day, a celebration, that these GED graduates are here to attend, and for all of you that have come to witness it. We have been given another day to walk the earth and the many blessings each of us have in life."
Jourdain stressed to the graduates that this isn’t the end; it’s a beginning. “GED, that's the first step. We want to see you in college. Hopefully you all will be an inspiration to others to get their GED. Today it’s so important to get an education, for Indian people to be educated—the nation is proud of you.”
Perkins spoke to the graduates about her personal experiences. “The only thing stopping you, was you," she said. "You have to want it, and if you want it, you go after it. There are ways of getting over the obstacles, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
This graduation celebration was the first time the program held such an event. Hanson said he had the idea awhile ago, caps and gowns and all.
“My idea was symbolic, to celebrate as one would normally do for high school graduation,” he said. “A ceremony hopefully would instill pride in both the graduates and their families.”
The celebration has caught the attention of the American Council on Education (ACE), which develops the GED test. Hanson said ACE asked him to report on the success of the ceremony idea.
Red Lake GED graduates include:
Andrew Barrett, Crystal Barrett, Michael Barrett, Brandon Beaulieu, Bryan Beaulieu, Gabriel Beaulieu, Melanie Brown, Ryan Brown, Benjamin Cloud Jr., Dominique Curry, Danika Curry-Johnson, Tiffany Defoe, Keith Dow Jr., Lacey Ducheneaux, Oyate Eagletail, Allen English, Brandon Fairbanks, Rochelle Graves, Hester Greenleaf, Chelsea Hardy, Gary Head, Sondra Hegstrom, Rose Heinonen, Fannie Howard-Johnson, Charlie Jackson, Allysha Johnson, Debbie Johnson, Paul Johnson, January Johnson, Beau Johnson-Lafave, Mark Jourdain, Alexander King, Bambi King, James King Sr., Amanda Kingbird, Phylicia Kingbird, Shawn Kingbird, Verlin Kingbird Jr., Danielle Ledoux, Elisha Little, Justin Lussier, Lateisha Lussier, Laura Lussier, Nodin Makwa, Katrina May, William May, Nia May, Christopher Morrison, Virginia Muneton, Mishaun Neadeau, James Needham, Nora Parkhurst, Stephanie Pemberton, Alan Randberg, Lee Redden, Chad Reynolds, James Rojas III, Chad Rosebear, Josephine Roybal, Ashley Sayers, Keith Schoenborn Jr., Sarah Smith, Natalie Spears, Orland Spears, Darwin Stately, Stephanie Stately, Dorla Stillday, Tyann Stillday, Chris Strong, Jordan Sumner, Lorena Sumner, Jeffrey Thompson, Maiingan Thompson, Mekko Thompson, Cody Thunder, Nicolet Wayka, Promise Weiss, Toni Wells, Amber White, Amy White, Avery White, Roy White Sr.