Shawnee Tribe Celebrates Class of 2023

MIAMI, OK — On Sunday, May 21, the Shawnee Tribe’s Education & Social Services Department hosted its first annual Shawnee Scholars Banquet at the tribe’s community building.

The honorees included Shawnee citizens graduating from high school or GED programs, as well as vo-tech, college & university grads and their family members. Many of the tribe’s elected officials were also in attendance, including Chief Ben Barnes who gave a brief keynote address.

“Our first scholars banquet was truly a success,” said Joshua Shawnee, Education & Social Services Director at the Shawnee Tribe. “We were thrilled to celebrate our 64 graduates, 21 of whom are Higher Education Award receipients!”

The Higher Education Award Program was reestablished by the Shawnee Tribe Business Council in 2022. In his remarks at the banquet, Shawnee said the program has awarded nearly $740,000 thus far, and he anticipates crossing the $1M mark this fall.

One such awardee, Tiffany Ayres of Bluejacket, OK, graduated as part of Oklahoma State University’s Class of 2023 with her Bachelors of Science degree in applied exercise science.

“The most challenging thing between high school and college was acclimating to the class sizes,” said Ayres. “I graduated [from high school] in a class of ten, and one of my first college classes had close to 300 people, which was bigger than the population of Bluejacket at the time.” Ayres is also a member of the national society of collegiate scholars. She plans to return to school next summer to pursue a Masters degree in athletic training.

In his address, Chief Barnes told the honorees they and their accompishments are an “answered prayer” and encouraged them to find ways of giving back to the tribal community.

“You being here is enough, but there’s a community here that’s waiting for you. And for those of you that feel called, this tribe wants to put forth efforts so that you can find new ways of contribution. We would like you to enter into policy, enter into the world of diplomacy, just like our ancestors did.”

Next year’s Shawnee Scholars Banquet will be held April 28 in honor of the Class of 2024.

Related Media:

Kansas Colleges & Universities to Provide In-State Tuition to Students from Tribes with Historical Ties to Kansas (May 2023)

Vision for Higher Education: Joshua Shawnee, Education & Social Services Director (July 2022)


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