As I write this, young adults from across Kitsap County are celebrating their graduations. Whether from high school or college, graduation is a time to reflect on accomplishments and prepare for the road ahead.
While my own kids are a few years away from donning a cap and gown, as chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe I’ve been attending a number of commencements and parties celebrating these bright, enthusiastic young adults and their achievements.
Education is important to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. We want to make sure young people are afforded the best possible opportunities and we work to support educational programs all across the County. For example, The Point Casino, which just celebrated the opening of its expansion, gives heavily to after-school programs so every student — Tribal and non-Tribal alike — can enrich their educational experiences through extra-curricular activities.
For several years, we’ve actively worked with Northwest Indian College, based on the Lummi Nation reservation near Bellingham. That partnership resulted in the establishment of a satellite campus on our reservation. We also have programs in place to help our Tribal youth with college scholarships.
Within our Tribal government and its related departments, we offer a mentoring program that can set participants on a path to management or director positions.
As someone who ascended to a leadership position, I’m still getting used to young people coming to me for advice. I find myself going back to the ideals that I’ve used to drive my career and achieve my goals:
– Don’t underestimate yourself. It’s easy to do and so difficult to overcome. A lot of people in your life will believe in you, encourage you, but you’re the only person with the capacity to realize your dreams.
– Stand up for what you believe in. It’s not always easy; in fact, it will likely be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. The fight though is always better than the alternative: a lifetime of “what if?”
– Stay informed. As you get older, inevitably, your responsibilities will grow. Work, family, children all demand care and nurturing, but you should always do your best to stay informed about what’s going on in the community and the world around you. This will not only keep you connected, but will also help you make better decisions.
– It’s true — trying and failing is better than never having tried at all.
– Find the happiness around you. It’s easy to take things for granted and think the next “something different” will finally bring happiness. The bigger, but more rewarding challenge is to be ambitious enough to always want to try and improve yourself while appreciating the life you have already built and the people who occupy it.
– Remember The Golden Rule? We all learned it early on. Treat others as you want to be treated. It might be easier to treat people poorly to get what you want more easily, but resist that temptation. People remember and, at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be thought of with kindness and a generous spirit?
I would like to congratulate all of this year’s graduates. Graduation is one of life’s most exciting moments. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Hold your head high and be proud of that hard work that has brought you this far. The rest of your life begins now. Good luck!
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.