With the sound of drums and the tradition of a pipe ceremony to mark the occasion, 39 graduating seniors in Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Indian Education program were honored by their parents and their program advisers at the annual year-end senior honoring banquet.
“Work hard and be prepared for anything as those doors open for you,” said guest speaker Stacey Thunder, herself an Anoka-Hennepin graduate.
The oldest of seven children, Thunder’s family moved from Columbia Heights to Coon Rapids when she was a junior.
She admits that she transitioned from being a rather lazy student being motivated and college bound once she entered Coon Rapids High School. “I worked really hard to make it,” Thunder said.
According to Thunder, she decided to be a lawyer, but admits that she found law school to be challenging.
“I had to work very hard and I almost felt defeated when I got my grades the first time,” Thunder said. “I had to work even harder.”
When doing a clerkship working for the Anishinabe, she said she found her passion to be in Indian country.
“I felt I belonged for the first time,” Thunder said.
She is currently general counsel for the Red Lake Nation and is host and co-producer of “Native News” for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which is in its eighth season.
She is also a film and television actress and an owner of Eagle Thunder Entertainment.
Thunder is a frequent pubic speaker and is involved in causes to raise awareness of the need for better health in Indian country and other critical issues.
She earned a national award recognizing outstanding young Native Americans who have shown excellence and are playing a significant role in shaping Indian country for the future.
“You have a bright future in front of you. Make the most of it,” Thunder told students.
Following dinner, students were honored individually by their Indian Education advisers and parents, who spoke about their talents, strengths and hard work as they presented them with personalized blankets.