The Tulalip Education Division celebrated eighth-grade Native students in their first ever event honoring graduating middle schoolers.
The event on May 27 had students come in their vehicles to Totem Middle School to receive congratulations and gifts.
The department typically holds a ceremony each year for graduating elementary schoolers but this is the first to celebrate those leaving middle school.
“We started planning for a formal event but due to COVID we made the change to a drive-thru event,” said Deyamonta Diaz, a Tribal student advocate with the Tulalip Education Division.
“We weren’t sure what the turnout would be for a drive-thru event but at the beginning we had a lot of people come through,” he said.
Diaz said tribal members began planning because they wanted to provide something for their middle school students.
“Initially we brought it up because we just want to celebrate our kids,” he said. “We loving doing positive things for our kids."
The department also wanted to do a better job staying connected during the middle school years, said Diaz.
“I think sometimes when they go from elementary to middle school we kind of lose them for a little bit,” he said.
A number of gifts were given to students who graduated from the middle school.
“They get to receive the gifts for participating in school, but to also signify they are going through a change, transitioning to high school, which is a big change,” said Diaz.
Student class posters have been done by the Tulalip Tribes since at least the early 2000s, said Diaz.
“It shows the class of students, our Native student population, representing who they are, their families and the schools or tribes they’re affiliated with,” he said.
The tradition helps celebrate students and remind them of their roots, he said.
“It’s good just having the gifts themselves, something that represents our Native kids and our Native families and their tribal affiliations,” he said.
Students also received a hat with a design from Diaz.
“It’s inspired by contemporary brands but I marked it with the word ‘Indigenous,’” he said. “Just to feel good about being Indigenous and look good."
Native drummers also performed some songs as families drove through the Totem Middle School parking lot.
“In the format of our event we also wanted some drumming and singing,” said Diaz. “We want to honor them with songs as they come,” he said.
Diaz said he would love to continue to hold the middle school honoring event next year as well, although he said it would likely be a gathering and not a drive-thru.
“I wouldn’t say a traditional event, but having a gathering event, pending what happens with COVID,” he said. “We would love to do it jam-style."