Pokagons honor our graduates at banquet

Megan Rick began her higher education journey in 2011.

“I thought a higher degree would give me higher opportunities,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”

It wasn’t always a straight line; first she majored in nursing. Then, after an internship with the Pokagon Band Housing Department that turned into a full time job as a housing specialist, she changed her major to business. She and her husband also expanded their family; they now have five children.

But between juggling a busy home life and a full time job and her studies, Rick achieved her associate degree in business administration last spring and a tribal leadership certificate from Southwestern Michigan College last summer. She and 27 other Pokagon graduates celebrated their accomplishments at this year’s Honoring our Graduates banquet in June.

More than seventy attendees gathered at the Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds New Buffalo to recognize the high school, vocational school and college graduates. After a welcome song from Jefferson Ballew IV, Clarence White offered an invocation and Treasurer Eugene Magnuson gave opening remarks. Martin Reinhardt, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe member and professor of Native American studies at Northern Michigan University, spoke to the crowd about how lifelong education has always been a valued part of our people’s ways.

Each high school graduate and vocational school and associates degree earner was called up to receive a basket, a gift certificate, and a journal. Those graduating with a bachelor degree got a Pokagon custom sunset blanket; graduates with master and doctorate degrees received a Pokagon custom copper blanket.

“I thought it was great to recognize positive things like that,” said Rick. “I knew a lot of the people because I run the student rental assistance program. So that made me proud seeing a lot of my students achieve their goals.”

She plans to continue her studies and work on her bachelor degree and eventually a master.

“I’m happy that the Education Department is there to back me up,” she said. “They helped me through that process; if it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t have finished.”