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'Share what you've been given': BHS American Indian seniors recognized as commencement approaches

Bemidji Area Schools and Bemidji High School staff and administrators congratulate several of the American Indian students Thursday evening at the school district's annual American Indian Senior Banquet. (Joe Bowen | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—Thirty-three American Indian students are set to graduate from Bemidji High School later this month.

A crowd of friends, family and Bemidji Area Schools staff and faculty congratulated those graduates at the school district's annual American Indian Senior Banquet.

"Share your gifts and your talents," exhorted Brent Gish, the executive director of the National Indian Impacted Schools Association and one of several candidates for White Earth Nation's chairmanship. "Each of you have been given much in life. You may not be rich or have great material wealth, but you are rich in other ways: rich in talent, rich in your traditional values, rich in your culture and your heritage. Share what you've been given. Make the commitment to pass it on to the next generation."

Gish told the students they are gifts from the Creator—"a precious and unique human being with great potential," he said. "Don't waste your gift."

A handful of school and district administrators handed out certificates to each graduating student present. They'll receive their real-deal diplomas later this May at the Sanford Center.

Some of those graduates will head to Bemidji State University or Northwest Technical College, others to North Dakota State University or even further afield to the University of Wyoming. Others will head to the military or enter the workforce.

About 12 percent of Bemidji High Schoolers are American Indian, according to Minnesota Department of Education data, and about half of American Indian students in the school district's class of 2018 graduated on time.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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