“Don’t talk, just act”: Cherokee High School holds modified graduation

by May 29, 2020COMMUNITY sgadugi, Front Page


Malia Davis, Cherokee High School Class of 2020, rides in a graduation parade through downtown Cherokee on the afternoon of Thursday, May 28. The parade preceded the graduation which was held, in a modified format, at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)





With the motto of “Don’t talk, just act.  Don’t say, just show.  Don’t promise, just prove”; the Cherokee High School (CHS) Class of 2020 walked across the stage and received their diplomas in a modified graduation on the afternoon of Thursday, May 28.  

To view or purchase photos of the graduates with their diplomas, visit: https://onefeather.smugmug.com/COMMUNITY-and-NEWS-EVENTS/2020-Community-Events/Cherokee-High-School-Graduation-May-28

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), modifications had to be made to the school’s usual graduation and included starting the proceedings with a parade through downtown Cherokee.  This was followed by each graduate, individually, walking across the stage at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center to receive their diplomas.  

Raylen Bark, CHS Class of 2020 valedictorian

“Although the year didn’t go as planned, it provided us with the opportunity to show how resilient our community is,” Raylen Bark, CHS Class of 2020 valedictorian, said in a videotaped speech.  “The community came together to help deliver meals, abide by rules to protect our families and elders, and check on students at home during the quarantine.  Just as our ancestors had to, we have demonstrated our strength coming together as a community.”  

She said that although students have had to overcome obstacles dealing with the pandemic, it has provided clarity on more important issues.  “Although we stayed home, we were able to reflect on so many things.  Some of us went and picked traditional foods for the first time, read a new book, started a new project, picked up a new hobby, tried our hand at cooking, felt more in touch with our culture, or even started working out.  We were able to take a step back from our busy lives and appreciate some of the things we took for granted.  We took everything that life threw at us and made it here today.  We persevered and achieved an incredible goal.”  

Tierney Bradley, CHS Class of 2020 salutatorian, said in her address, “I know this isn’t the graduation that we all felt we’d be attending.  Like ‘a drive-thru for high school diplomas? Woohoo.’  But, nonetheless, we are here today to celebrate the graduation of Cherokee High School’s Class of 2020 – the best class ever to grace the halls of CHS, I might add.” 

Tierney Bradley, CHS Class of 2020 salutatorian

She said their senior year has been a “roller coaster ride” and noted, “This past year, especially these past few months, has opened my eyes and taught me to appreciate life and appreciate who I have in my life.  I didn’t realize how much the people around you fill up your life until I wasn’t allowed to be around them.”  

Bradley added, “The main thing is you can’t be afraid to live your life – take chances and live.  Whatever you decide to do with your life, do it as long as you’re happy and as long as it’s legal…I would like to applaud this group of young people for surviving all four years, especially this crazy year.”  

Although not presented in the usual format, several awardees were recognized during the graduation proceedings including: 

* CHS JROTC Battalion Commander Sabre Awards: Logan Lequire, Toby Johns 

* WCU Cherokee Center Jerry Wolfe Gadugi Awards: Tierney Bradley, Brandon Wolfe 

* NAIWA Awards: Raylen Bark, Tierney Bradley 

Dr. Debora Foerst, CHS principal, said in a message to the students, “We know these are unprecedented times; we have faced difficult decisions and we have overcome unique obstacles.  Members of the Class of 2020, please know how aware we all are of all that you have missed out on because of this pandemic.” 

She went on to say, “Culturally speaking, action is revered over talking.  The Cherokee and other tribes across the country have faced many individuals and governmental agencies who say things and make promises, but their words don’t match their ways, and their promises are not kept.  So, we value showing and proving.”  

Dr. Foerst encouraged the students, “You have acted, shown, and proven yourselves worthy of a Cherokee High School diploma.  You have persevered through the most unusual time you have ever experienced, and you’ve come out on top.  I ask that you not forget your class motto.  As you close this chapter and turn the page, please remember to act, show, and prove.  It will serve you well no matter what your future will hold.”  

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed addressed the students in a message and applauded their tenacity and perseverance during these trying times. “As this chapter of your life comes to a close, I want to remind you that a new chapter is beginning – one that you will write every day with the choices that you will make.  If there is any lesson that can be learned from this global pandemic, it is that life is both precious and brief.  With this in mind, I strongly encourage you to seize the opportunities presented to you each and every day – to choose to live with purpose, to understand that purpose and meaning for our individual lives is only realized when we live to serve and care for others.  It is the very core of who we are as Cherokee people.”  

The CHS Class of 2020 includes the following: 

Raylen Jay Ulvsvdi Bark (Valedictorian, Highest Honors, National Honor Society) 

Tierney Edaynia Bradley (Salutatorian, Highest Honors, National Honor Society) 

Xavier Allen Armachain 

Gracie Moon Bell 

Melvina Blue Berry 

Taylin Kelsie Bowman 

Jeffrey Elliot Bradley 

Reef Gareth Cochran 

Bobby Allen Boyd Crowe 

Ethan Nathaniel Crowe 

Maiya Jameson Davis (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Malia Marie Davis 

Matthew Silas Driver 

Hawk Moon Whisper Ensley 

Deliah Grace Esquivel 

Awee Jadelynn French 

Christopher Somersey N’Hoj Gammon (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Jacob Troy Griffin 

Kimberly Marie Hendrix (High Honors, National Honor Society) 

Mikhail Josiah Hernandez 

William Elyas Hornbuckle 

Aiden Merrick Hubble 

Toby Libra Johns Jr. 

Aia Rain Johnson (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Christopher Warren Johnson 

Dalericka Lorual King 

Acecia Jayla Makai Lambert (High Honors, National Honor Society) 

Treannie Awan Larch (High Honors, National Honor Society) 

Alexa Jade Ledford 

Austin Taylor Ledford 

Tyler David Clarke Ledford 

Christina Marie Lee 

Logan Dwight Lequire (National Honor Society) 

Emilio Javier Librado 

Brian Gavin Littlejohn-Bigmeat 

Mykel Tai Saloli Lossiah (National Honor Society) 

Zackary Ryan Wilson Lossiah 

Lauren Alexis Luther (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Breanna Nicole Mangold (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Ella Nora Montelongo 

Cameron Ben Nelson (National Honor Society) 

Jacob Dalton Norton 

Taylor Selu Rene O’Kelley (National Honor Society) 

Clarissa Lauren Owle 

Marcus Santoyo Owle 

Hallah Mellesse Panther 

Tino Ochoa Pete 

Khylan Chaos Pheasant 

Shiah Destany Pheasant 

William Hewitt Pheasant 

Lauren Vonceil Parrish Queen 

Shaylon Dawn Rattler 

Cameron Hayes Reed 

Dorian Keely Reed (Honors, National Honor Society) 

Samantha Munoz Salazar 

Sterling Xavier Santa Maria (High Honors, National Honor Society) 

Staci Olivia Spicer 

Bessie Coleen Swayney (National Honor Society) 

Macy Aleigha Swayney (High Honors, National Honor Society) 

Julian Ned Taylor 

Amaya Mykal George Toineeta 

Cecil Eli Walkingstick Jr. 

Jaden Sam Welch 

Sebrena Dallas Whiting (National Honor Society) 

Brandon Van Wolfe (High Honors, National Honor Society)