Hopi graduates face "awkward" challenges

Hopi High graduate Alan Gonnie presents a rose to his proud mother (Photo by Stan Bindell/Observer).

Hopi High graduate Alan Gonnie presents a rose to his proud mother (Photo by Stan Bindell/Observer).

POLACCA-The three academic amigos were the hit of the Hopi High School graduation as they proved that students can get good grades and keep their sense of humor.

Dyan Melvin, Jose Acevido and Nicolaas Van Maerssen mixed humor into their speeches and their fellow graduates had chants ready as each was called to the podium in one of the liveliest graduations ever.

Jim Hastings, education line officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Keams Canyon, commented that he attends a lot of graduations and that this one was notably the most fun.

Approximately 3,000 family, friends and supporters turned out at Bruins Stadium May 25 to watch 115 students graduate from Hopi High.

Melvin, who will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the valedictorian. He recounted that when he first came to the Hopi Reservation and Hopi High he found the situation awkward, but felt it had possibilities.

Melvin went out for the track team this year for the first time. He also found that awkward, but having possibilities. He found he wasn't good at running long distances or the sprints, but found happiness in the 800-meter. At state, Melvin was part of Hopi 4x800 meter relay team that won a bronze medal and set a school record in the process.

Chad Baker, Lionel Nevayaktewa and Paul Huma were his teammates on the relay team.

Melvin urged his fellow graduates to enjoy today, but asked what they want to do about their future.

"It may be awkward, but it may also come with possibilities," he said.

Acevido and Van Maerssen served as co-salutatorians. Acevido will attend Arizona State University and Van Maerssen is headed for the University of California at Berkeley.

Acevido recounted how he didn't like Hopi High when he first arrived, but he watched his younger brother Samuel adjust and he decided to adjust as well. He praised his teachers, especially poetry teacher Allison Vowell, National Honor Society (NHS) advisor John Cadigan, band teacher Brian Logan and cross country coach Rick "The Legend" Baker.

"I've learned that life is hard, but with determination I can do great things. Graduation is a highlight, but not the only one," he said.

Van Maerssen said he took May 2 off to go canoeing at Beaver Dam.

"I didn't expect to do that and I didn't expect this," he said about being named co-saluatatorian and getting the chance to speak at graduation.

Daylene Billy, student body president, said this year's graduates accomplished a lot that they couldn't have done without their teachers, coaches and administrators.

Hopi High Principal Glenn Gilman praised the class for passing the Arizona Instrument for Measuring Standards (AIMS) and for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). He noted that the graduation rate for this year's graduating class was 82 percent-an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

He told the graduates that graduation brings with it responsibility to come up with plans for the future. He also urged the graduates to make informed decisions.

Principal Gilman praised this class' athletic competitive spirit, noting that the Hopi High boys cross country team has won an unparalleled 17 consecutive state championships.

Principal Gilman pointed to Vonn Secakuku who has been on the state champion cross country team for the past four years.

The Hopi High Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps posted the colors, Hopi High Choir Club sang the national anthem, Miss Hopi High Jasmine James gave the invocation, Lavonne Honyouti presented awards for the Protecting You/Protecting Me program, John Cadigan presented NHS awards and Virgie Thompson gave the Booster Club awards.

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