Sequoyah high school remains an elite educational institution | Tribal News
As the school year draws to a close, I ask everyone to join me in recognizing the dedication and support of the teachers and staff at Sequoyah High School. I am also very proud of the accomplishments of our students, with good reason.
The Cherokee Nation oversees the management and operations of Sequoyah High School, which welcomes Indigenous students from grades 9 to 12 here in Tahlequah. Sequoyah is a school funded by the Bureau of Indian Education, and it continues to be a model of success for its students and our people.
The school was founded in 1871 as an orphanage to provide homes for Cherokee children who had lost their families during the Civil War. It operated continuously as an orphan training school and later as a BIA school, before the Cherokee Nation assumed operation of the 90-acre campus in 1985.
All of Sequoyah High’s students – approximately 370 young people – are citizens of Native American tribes recognized by the federal government. While other Oklahoma schools have an average Aboriginal population close to 20 percent, Sequoyah’s student body is 100 percent American Indian.
Ensuring the success of our children throughout the graduation process is essential for their future. Our graduation rate at SHS is over 97 percent. We gladly commit the staff and resources to prepare our students for the next chapter in their lives, whether it is higher education, vocational training or entering the job market.
Our teacher turnover rate is extremely low, which adds to the basis of the success we have at SHS. Our faculty is attached to this institution. Our teachers and staff are an integral part of the fabric of the school and often embark on a lifelong career at Sequoyah.
In total, senior graduates of Sequoyah receive more than $ 2 million in college scholarships each year. Over the years, several Gates Millennium Fellows have come from SHS. However, the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which funded hundreds of millions of dollars for students in Indian countries, was restructured in 2016. The dollars earmarked for Indigenous students moved to other pools, and Indigenous students are now competing with non-natives for Gates funding. . Only 300 students per year receive a Gates scholarship. This year, we are delighted to share that a senior SHS has been named to this elite group of Gates Millennium Scholars.
As of 2014, 11 Sequoyah students have been recognized as Oklahoma University Fellows, as determined by scoring at least 27 on the ACT test. During the same period, the average test scores for SHS increased by almost two full points.
In the last academic year, 64 students were enrolled simultaneously at Northeastern State University and 23 students at the Indian Capital Technology Center. There are also five students enrolled at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, a progressive STEM-focused institution that has forged a strong bond with Sequoyah.
Educational innovation is an area in which we excel at Sequoyah. For example, SHS started implementing the Social and Emotional Learning Program three years ago. SEL focuses on the essential social tools necessary for academic and personal success, such as resilience, self-management, and responsible decision-making. This is a rapidly growing trend in educational planning, putting SHS well ahead. SHS students who took the first SEL class will become assistant students for the new first year class next fall.
Sequoyah’s sports teams and successful state titles are widely reported and followed via social media. Non-sporting activities such as theater, speech, debate, and orchestra also regularly win state-level accolades. For students who have a passion for our tribal language or who have graduated from Cherokee Immersion School, we have started offering Cherokee language opportunities.
Right now, SHS alumni are doing amazing things across the country, from getting medical degrees to playing Major League Baseball. Over the past 10 years, a pipeline has been established between SHS and Ivy League schools like Brown, Columbia, and Dartmouth, as well as top Oklahoma institutions: Northeastern State University, Rogers State University, University of Oklahoma , Oklahoma State University, and Oklahoma City University.
Many Sequoyah alumni tell us school is the best thing that has ever happened to them. For the Cherokee Nation, SHS remains the educational hotbed of our youth and attracts the best and brightest from the Cherokee Nation and Indian country. Let’s celebrate another year of hard work and achievement by the students, faculty and staff of Sequoyah High School.
Bill John Baker is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.