“Stack ya bread”: Cherokee High holds commencement for Class of 2022

by May 27, 2022COMMUNITY sgadugi0 comments


The Cherokee High School Class of 2022 celebrates their graduation at the conclusion of commencement exercises held in the Charles George Memorial Arena on the evening of Thursday, May 26. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)


One Feather Staff


It was pouring down rain outside, but inside the Charles George Memorial Arena spirits were high as the Cherokee High School (CHS) Class of 2022 had its commencement exercises on the evening of Thursday, May 26.  With the motto of “Stack Ya Bread”, a slang term for working hard to secure a solid future, the Class of 2022 ended its high school career becoming the first class to finish all 13 years at the new Cherokee Central Schools campus.

PHOTOS: Presentation of Diplomas

PHOTOS: Graduation shots

“We are not just to stack our bread to make a living for ourselves, but we are to support our families and communities,” CHS Principal Dr. Debora Foerst said during her opening remarks.  “It is this idea of supporting those around us that provides our cultural connection. One of the seven Cherokee core values and laws – group harmony and kin relationships and freely sharing and giving time, talent and treasures. So, we don’t just stack our bread for our own living. We should stack our bread in order to provide for our families and our communities.”

Viriginia Johnson, left, presents a NAIWA Award to Abigail Taylor, CHS Class of 2022 valedictorian. Aria Foerst, CHS Class of 2022 salutatorian, also received an award.

Dr. Foerst spoke to the challenges the Class of 2022 has faced, “The class of 2022 is full of amazing individuals who I have no doubt will stack up their bread while supporting those around them. That is exactly what they did these past four years at Cherokee High School. They are a family who has faced adversity and tumultuous times but they stuck together, supported each other, and made it to tonight’s commencement.”

She added, “This class is also very resilient. So much has been required of them – sent home with packets, staying home for a year, learning through a camera and computer screen, returning to school, but only two days a week, then returning full time, wearing masks, daily temperature checks, walking in the halls a particular way, staying socially distanced, eating in their classrooms, metal detectors – and the list goes on. These students succeeded in spite of these challenges, and they had a little fun along the way.”

Donna Thompson, Class of 2022 senior class president, said in her address, “Here, at Cherokee High School, it isn’t just a school, it’s a community. We support everyone as if they’re family. Growing up on the (Qualla) Boundary taught me to always respect our elders, but it’s much more than that. We have so many privileges and opportunities to be thankful for. I don’t believe we are as appreciative as we should be for all our Tribe, school, and community does for us.”

Dr. Debora Foerst, CHS principal, presents a diploma to her daughter, Aria Foerst, CHS Class of 2022 salutatorian.

“I’ve seen everyone grow in their own ways, which I think is the best thing to see. Our class is made up of various personalities which truly makes us the best. To my fellow classmates, I wish you all the best in this new beginning. I hope to see familiar faces in the future doing good things. Anything is possible if you are determined. I ask for your best effort in everything you do.”

Aria Foerst, CHS Class of 2022 salutatorian, said time flew by during high school.  She also spoke of the challenges this group of graduates has faced.  “After doing these sports and activities every day for the last four years, knowing that you have no more summer workouts – or, if you do, they won’t be as a Brave or Lady Brave – it hits hard. But it is tough because we put so much of ourselves into our high school years. And, these years weren’t easy. The class has made it through some really hard times in our high school career like when we were all sent home for COVID our sophomore year and it ended up going into our junior year. And, half of us myself included, did not know how to learn through a computer alone, so we ended up getting behind. We struggled with motivation and sometimes slept through our classes, but because we were in our beds trying to learn.”

Sam Lambert, a member of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, presents an American Legion Award to Deon Bailey II.

Speaking to her class, she noted, “To the students going to further their education, know that it is not going to be easy but you have what it takes and you have a very bright future ahead of you. Take the time to enjoy your college years along the way. To the students taking a year off or entering the workforce, that is not an easy path either so keep working hard to reach your goals.”

She concluded by saying, “We completed a very big milestone by graduating today, but it is not the end. We are only starting a new chapter in our lives…please, let us never forget who we are and where we come from. Once a Brave, always a Brave.”

Abigail Taylor, CHS Class of 2022 valedictorian, said in her address, “We did it. We are finally graduating. This is our reward for all the hard work, tears, late nights, endless hours of worry, worrying about our grades and if we’re going to pass this class or not. It is also a time to reflect on all the joys and wonderful memories we made here at Cherokee High School. Tonight is the night that we begin the new chapter of our lives. Whether we strive to go to college or go straight to work. Whether we go into the military, trade school, or college, this is where we start our journey.”

Idalis Crowe, right, presents the Cherokee High School Student Council Scholarship Award to Leilaya McMillan.

She told her personal story of setting a goal early on in her high school career to become the valedictorian – a goal that didn’t come easy.  “Tonight, I’d like to share with you one final lesson from my own experience. It is a lesson about walking your own path in life. When I learned that I was going to be valedictorian, I had mixed emotions. I was naturally happy and excited. I was so proud of myself. And yet, I was a little bit disappointed. Now, I know what you are all thinking, ‘why would you be disappointed after you worked so hard for this?’. Well, that’s the thing, that’s exactly what I did. I worked so hard that it took up all of my time and I wasn’t able to find a balance between my studies and my social life.”

Sky Sampson, second from left, and Robin Wolfe, second from right, presented the Dr. Jerry Wolfe Gadugi Award, named in honor and memory of the late Beloved Man who was Wolfe’s father. Award recipients were Kegan Curtice, left, and Jamice Mora, right.

But, she was able to persevere and find balance.  “With the help of loving, concerned parents, teachers who truly care about me, and a good therapist, I was able to prioritize what I needed to do to be able to find that balance between my social and my academic goals.”

“Senior year was one of the best years of my life because it was where I learned to walk my path in balance – being a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter, and a good student.”

She left the class with, “Find the balance in your life that honors family, friends, education, work, love, and community. They are all important…Peace, love, and prosperity to the Cherokee High School class of 2022 as we set off to our chosen paths.”

Several awards were given during Thursday’s commencement including:

  • NAIWA Award, presented by Virginia Johnson to Abigail Taylor and Aria Foerst
  • Jerry Wolfe Gadugi Award presented by Sky Sampson and Robin Wolfe to Jamice Mora and Kegan Curtice
  • CHS Student Council Scholarship presented by Idalis Crowe to Leilaya McMillan
  • American Legion Award presented by Sam Lambert to Deon Bailey II

The graduating Class of 2022 is as follows:

Jordan Phillip Arkansas (Honors, National Honor Society)

Marcus Armachain (National Honor Society)

Patricia Maria Armachain-Biddix

Deon Sadikisali Bailey II

Samuel Carter Bernhisel

Timothy Trace Bird

Creighton Crease Bradley

Donald Joseph Bradley (National Honor Society)

Emily Nicole Bradley

Kyanna Zoie Brady

Dason Drel Bryant

Santanna Laury Lee Buchanan

Evan William Caley (Honors, National Honor Society)

Kegan McKenzy Curtice (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Lucian Ezekiel Davis (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Bryanna Nicole Disoso (Honors)

Aria Noelle Foerst (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Malakai James Fourkiller-Raby

Caidyn Leigh French (National Honor Society)

Alverta Mia-Li Henson

Hayden Mitchel Duval Herman

Joseph George Hornbuckle

Gabriel Lee Jarvis (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Jeremy Dean Kalonaheskie Jr.

Mason Wade Ledford

Dylan James Littlejohn

Tehya Sage Littlejohn (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Miranda Amyra Lopez (Honors, National Honor Society)

Betty Martha Lossiah

Jae Tatanya Lossiah (National Honor Society)

Woodrow Wilson Lossie

Brandon Keith Martin Jr.

Mylisa Arlena Mathis

Makala Quinah McGaha (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Leilaya Jayde McMillan (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Jamice Kaytelyne Mora

Alayna Beck Morgan (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Iman Bella Powell

John Delsin Tyee Queen

Kyler Lee Queen

James Emmett Luke Reed

MacKenzie Ann Reed

Derek Anthony Reynolds (National Honor Society)

Eric Munoz Salazar

Jose Salinas

Silas Litefoot Sequoyah

Takota Rain Sexton (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Caedance Alexia Smith (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Haley Brooke Smith

Joshua Jack Smith (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Daryn Kyli Smoker

Luther James Standing Bear Light in the Lodge Jr.

Nikkia Lachae Swayney

Abigail Salalisi Taylor (Highest Honors, National Honor Society)

Lloyd Jim Teesateskie

Donna Helen Thompson (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Danasia Toineeta (National Honor Society)

Praire Monique Toineeta (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Isaac David Tsatoke

Jacob Howard Wallace (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Elijah Payton Watty (High Honors, National Honor Society)

Zacceus Ashton Watty-Ramirez

Tevy Ann West

Landon Brody Wildcat

Trevor Lucian Wolfe