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Education Secretary Cardona delivers commencement address at SKC

by By MARLA HALL Lake County Leader
| June 9, 2022 12:00 AM

After an invitation from SKC President, Dr. Sandra Boham, and after considering the 37 tribal colleges and universities established in 14 states — among other invitations, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona chose to make his singular commencement address for 2022 at the Flathead Reservation’s own Salish Kootenai College.

What stood out about SKC, according to Secretary Cardona, was the college’s focus on language as a keystone in preserving the culture of a people. He identified SKC as a model for other schools and expressed a hope that other colleges would follow its lead. Cardona further observed that SKC, being on an open reservation and inviting both tribal and non-tribal members into its community, affirmed his belief that diversity and differences enhance the ongoing development of a community.

In his address to the 138 graduates, Cardona emphasized the importance of "home" and commented on the sense of home infused into the SKC campus.

Prior to the graduation ceremony itself, Cardona met with several students and leaders of the college in two "meet-and-greet" sessions. Much of the discussion emphasized the importance of language in preserving the culture. Several students also talked about how much the wisdom of the elders contributed to their self-identities and self-confidence. One student commented on the influence of one elder who, “saw something in me I didn’t know I had.”

As the celebration transitioned from the small group discussions to the graduation ceremony itself, the cool drizzle of the day not only did not dampen the excitement but seemed to add to the sense of new beginnings as the graduates now move from school to their chosen careers.

SKC currently offers 17 bachelor degree programs, 21 associate degree programs and six certificate programs.

The processional was led into the Joe McDonald Health and Fitness Center by Michael Kenmille and Linda King, both wearing traditional native regalia. As the Chief Cliff drummers played for the Grand Entry, several of the students, also dressed in native regalia, dance stepped into the gym.

Francis Auld gave the invocation which was followed by welcomes from the Chairman of the SKC Board of Directors, Jim Durglo and President Boham.

Secretary Cardona’s positive message in his commencement address had as its focal point, “language is the heart of all people.”

Dr. Anthony Berthelote, VP of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs presented the Student of the Year Award to ArriAnna Henry, a first-generation college student and graduate. Henry then addressed her fellow graduates ending with a reminder that “with self-discipline, anything is possible.”

Dan Durglo, VP of Academic Affairs presented the Faculty of the Year award to Tammy Elser who expressed her love and respect for all who teach with the thought that “a deep abiding kindness permeates the teaching profession.”

Following the presentation of two honorary degrees, the graduates were individually announced and then made their way across the stage where they were congratulated by Secretary Cardona, President Boham, board members, and administrators.

The ceremony concluded with a prayer led by Shirley Trahan and then the graduates exited to the drumming and song by Yamncut while waving to bleachers full of family and friends.

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U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, presents the SKC commencement address. (Marla Hall photo)

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Student of the year ArriAnna Henry prepares to address her fellow graduates. (Marla Hall photo)

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Lakaius Croff dons his father's beaded mortar board. Jalen Croff graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. (Marla Hall photo)