NESPELEM - For the past six years with exception to 2020, the Education departments of the Colville Confederated Tribes have gathered together to plan an eventful ceremony to celebrate this year’s graduates.

“Each year we are thrilled to celebrate this huge milestone alongside our tribal members and want to ensure their families have the opportunity to partake in witnessing the recognition as well,” said Kayce Palmer College Administrator for the Colville Confederated Tribes Higher Education Program.

This year the Higher Ed Program had twenty-one graduates register to attend the Graduate Recognition Ceremony; 11 of which were post-secondary.

At the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, the program had 15 students graduate with their Certificates or Associates Degree, 26 students graduate with their Bachelor’s Degree, and eight students graduate with their Master’s degree.

“We were not disappointed with the reach of Melissa Meza. She graduated from Eastern Washington University with her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Finance. Meza raptured the crowd with her personal story of her childhood that many reservation kids can connect with,” said Palmer

Meza was raised by a single mom in the HUDS of Omak, and lost her mother too soon in her young adult life. In High School she struggled and college was never even a thought in her future plans. Meza garnered the power behind her hardships, setbacks and challenges and used it to push to strengthen herself to want more in life. She felt proud to be an indigenous person taking up space at a university, and proud to be her mother’s daughter with her work ethic and determination.

Chairman Andy Joseph Jr., E&E Chairwoman Karen Condon, and Nespelem Council Shar Zacherle attended the event and shared some thoughtful words to the graduates persevering through a difficult year and graduating amidst a pandemic, recognizing the fortitude of all students to continue this past year, and words of prayer for the people, land, animals and foods.

The culmination of the ceremony was wrapping each graduate in their Pendleton blanket; a gift from the Tribes honoring their academic achievement.

Following the ceremony there was a delicious BBQ rib and chicken lunch that was catered by C&B Eats.

For any of our Colville Tribal graduates that were not able to attend the ceremony the Tribes still wishes to honor your achievement. Graduates have one year to request their Pendleton blanket gift from the Tribes; High School contact: Employment & Training 509-634-2720 and College graduates contact Higher Education: 509-634-2779

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