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Old 07-05-2005, 08:40 PM   #1
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Onondaga Nation School Holds Graduation Ceremony

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Onondaga Nation School Holds Graduation Ceremony
Seven eighth-graders go to LaFayette with well-wishes from 250 family and
friends.

Thursday, June 30, 2005
By Ngoc Huynh
Staff writer
More than 250 family members, friends, and staff attended the Onondaga Nation
School's eighth-grade graduation ceremony last week.
The graduates are Derek Bennett, Amanda Burk, Suellen Edwards, Krystal Hill,
Isaac Hopper, Kacey Printup and Alisa Silkworth.
Pupils in the lower grades at the school performed songs, dances, and poetry
to recognize the graduates.
The Onondaga Nation School serves about 82 pupils in kindergarten through
eighth grade.
Unlike other schools, it is among three American Indian schools entirely
supported by the state, as federal land treaties require.
The other two schools are St. Regis Elementary School at the Mohawk Nation,
and Tuscarora Elementary School at the Tuscarora Nation.
During the June 22 ceremony, the graduates opened the program by first giving
thanks to the creator. As they stood on the stage in their traditional
outfits that they sewed themselves, family members took many photos.
Edwards said she and her classmates selected the fabric and design for their
outfits since the beginning of the school year.
"I had to start over three times because I didn't cut things right," Edwards
said. "It was too short or too long."
Edwards, 14, wore a purple and white dress with a Haudenosaunee wapum belt.
She said the belt represents the five nations - Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga,
Oneida and Seneca.
Before the students received their diplomas from Principal Carol Erb, they
presented appreciation scrolls to their family members. They also gave their
parents wooden benches that they made from technology class.
When Edwards called her father to the stage and handed him an appreciation
scroll, he gave her a big hug.
Jake Edwards said he is very proud of his daughter. He said he hopes his
daughter will always remember one thing when she heads to LaFayette
Junior-Senior High School.
"That she knows her way home and that she never forgets who she is," he said
.
When the pupils at the high school this fall, Danielle Rourke will be among
staff members who will guide and support them through the changes.
Rourke is the high school's Native American liaison and school counselor.
Rourke, who is Mohawk, said 24 percent of pupils at the high school are American
Indian.
"From what I understand, there is a need to have a person identify with the
kids so that they would feel comfortable to come for help," Rourke said.
In May, high school Principal Paula Cowling said there was an eighth-grade
orientation day.
Those students were paired with ninth-graders for the day. She said the event
was successful and pupils went to lunch, study hall and classes together.
One of the major changes for students who leave the Nation School is the
larger class sizes at the high school. Rourke said the students will be in a
classroom of 20 instead of 10.
"They have to learn to be independent and confident to maintain good grades,"
Rourke said.
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