RED LAKE -- Violet May had her sights set on being the valedictorian in high school. She wrote it down as one of her life goals as a young child.
It didn’t happen. . .in high school that is.
May is graduating on Thursday as the valedictorian of Red Lake Nation College’s class of 2020.
“My dad actually found an old notebook, where I wrote one of my goals was ‘be valedictorian’ and I finally got it,” she said. “It wasn’t meant to be in high school, it was meant to be in college.”
“I’m actually not the first valedictorian in the family, I come from a long line of them,” she added, noting many of her aunts and uncles also held the honor.
May gained an associate degree at RLNC, and in the future hopes to combine her passions of art and video games.
“Art and video games: that’s basically all I do,” May said laughing. “I’ve always liked art ever since I was a child. My mother was an artist too.”
She plans to attend Bemidji State University to earn a bachelor degree and eventually become an art teacher.
While May’s art has taken many different forms over the years -- acrylics, drawing and more -- she is especially interested in digital drawing, so she can combine her love of art with her love of video games.
She estimates she has 300-400 video games and describes her house as looking like "a miniature Gamestop."
Some of her favorite pieces of artwork are two murals she painted on the walls of the Red Lake Secondary Complex. Her work can also be seen on the walls of the Red Lake Nation Boys and Girls Club Teen Center.
May said she was particularly influenced by her woodshop and welding teachers at Red Lake Secondary.
While in high school, May felt discouraged when she was told she wouldn’t amount to anything after school.
“If I could go back now, I’d tell myself, I don’t care what they say now, you’ll get what you want in the future,” she said of the incident.
May preferred RLNC to high school, because she was able to focus on her passions and work independently. During her time at RLNC, she also had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby for funding for tribal colleges.
As valedictorian, May will be giving a speech at the RLNC commencement on Thursday, and she plans to honor her parents in her address.
“My parents have always been supportive of me. I remember when I was younger I got bullied on the bus once,” she said, “and after that, my mom wouldn’t let me take the bus anymore, she drove me to school every day since kindergarten.”
In lieu of a traditional ceremony, RLNC graduates will be honored at a drive-in graduation ceremony at 8 p.m. on May 21, in front of the college.