Meskwaki school graduates first senior class 5-22-07

TAMA, Iowa (AP) - The Meskwaki Settlement has graduated its first class of high school seniors, awarding diplomas to four students.

The students - three girls and one boy - were recognized during a ceremony Saturday in the school gym and again during a ceremony Sunday at the tribal center. Each student also received a gift, said Meskwaki Settlement School Superintendent Jerry Stephens.

The schools colors are red and green, so the girls wore red robes while the boy wore green.

Stephens said the four students all plan to continue their education.

He said one difference between the Meskwaki school and public school is that the Meskwaki school teaches the tribe's language and culture.

“That's how we are going to preserve those things,” Stephens said.

The school is subject to the same education standards as other school and the federal No Child Left Behind guidelines.

The school has about 200 students from preschool through high school. There are 27 students in high school and Stephens said 11 seniors are expected to graduate next year.

Work has begun on a new $21 million building that will house grades seven to 12. It will be attached to the current school, which was built in 2001.

The tribe will fund about $17 million with $4 million being provided by the Bureau of Indian Education, Stephens aid.

He anticipates enrollment will increase to as much as 350, with hopes that some students will return from South Tama schools.

The first school at the settlement opened in 1937.

Stephens said the high school has been in the works for about 10 years.