TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Sequoyah High School has named Brooke Bighorse as its class of 2023 valedictorian while Lilli Jo Jordan and Hannah Neugin have been named co-salutatorians.
Sequoyah’s commencement ceremony for the class of 2023 will take place on the school’s campus at The Place Where They Play on May 19 at 6:30 p.m.
“The Sequoyah High School’s class of 2023 has made incredible achievements and continued the school’s tradition of excellence,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The Cherokee Nation has always had a strong commitment to education, and it’s a dedication that we will continue to prioritize. We look forward to seeing the many things these graduating seniors will accomplish in the years to come, whether they choose to further their education or explore career opportunities. We know that these graduates can and will be meaningful contributors to society and shining representatives of our tribe.”
The graduating class features 78 students, several of which have accepted scholarship offers from college institutions such as Northeastern State University, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Montevallo, Fort Lewis College, University of Arkansas, Murray State and Connor’s State.
“This class of graduating seniors should be commended for its resilience and dedication,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “We shouldn’t forget that this is yet another Sequoyah High School class that was forced to overcome the many unique challenges and unfamiliarity brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic. And despite those challenges, they’ve only succeeded and continued to be strong representatives of the tribe that we should all be proud of.”
Bighorse, of Stilwell, Okla., is the daughter of Mark and Clara Bighorse and is Cherokee, Osage and Seneca-Cayuga. She is the Sequoyah High School valedictorian with a weighted GPA of 4.46.
Bighorse plans to attend the University of Oklahoma and major in health, medicine and society while minoring in Native American studies. She aims to work in rural medicine in the future.
“I chose to attend Sequoyah because of my family,” Bighorse said. “My brother graduated from here, and this is where my paternal grandparents, Louise Osage and Frank Bighorse, met and fell in love. I felt a deep connection with the school even before I stepped on campus. While my family was the reason I chose to attend Sequoyah, the people I’ve met here are why I truly fell in love with the school. I could not see myself attending another school. The support you feel from the staff and other students is unlike anything I have ever felt anywhere before. Every person at Sequoyah wants you to succeed, and they will help you in any way they can. If it wasn’t for the support from the community of Sequoyah, I would not be where I am today. I am extremely honored to be in the position I am today, and I think that Sequoyah has helped me prepare for the future.”
Bighorse is a member of the Sequoyah girls golf team and is Vice President of National Honor Society. She is also a representative of the Senior Class Student Council, the Public Relations of Student Wellness Action Team, FCA/FCS, the Medical Careers Club, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Astronomy Club, the Safe and Healthy Schools Committee, the American Indian Resource Center and the Cherokee National Youth Choir.
Through concurrent enrollment, Bighorse earned 27 credit hours from NSU during high school.
Jordan, of Stilwell, is the daughter of Roy Jordan and Amanda and Derrick Lemasters. She is Cherokee, Ponca and Mvskoke. She is a co-salutatorian with a current GPA of 4.39, and she plans to attend Northeastern State to double major in business administration and marketing.
Jordan has been involved with SHS Student Council all four years of high school and was part of the National Honor Society during her junior and senior years, where she is currently the secretary. She is the captain of the school’s speech and debate team as well as the drama president and senior class secretary.
Chosen as a 2022 Girl’s State delegate, Jordan has been a regional qualifier in speech and debate OSSAA competitions in the dramatic interpretation, monologue, dramatic duet and foreign extemporaneous categories. She was also a state runner-up in the OSSAA One-Act competitions in the 2021-22 school year.
Jordan has been involved with drama summer camps and has also gone to New York to do a workshop in musical theatre.
On top of being an AIRC mentor since her junior year, Jordan has been involved with Sequoyah’s Student Wellness Action Team to put on a mock drunk driving accident to spread awareness during prom activities.
Jordan has shown leadership skills through her job as a martial arts instructor at Ramos Championship Martial Arts, where she has achieved her first-degree black belt and will be testing for her second-degree in the fall.
“Deciding to go to Sequoyah was probably one of the best decisions I could have made,” Jordan said. “Coming here felt like I was coming home. I was surrounded by people who cared about me and made me feel like I was part of a family. I felt like, ‘I belong here, this is where I want to be and this is where I was meant to be.’ All of the faculty and students have made my time here so memorable.”
Jordan has taken concurrent enrollment classes for two years and will be graduating high school with 27 college credit hours.
Neugin, a Tahlequah native and the daughter of Libby Neugin, is also a co-salutatorian with a current GPA of 4.39. The Cherokee citizen has been a part of numerous organizations during her time at Sequoyah. She is the co-captain of the varsity academic team and has been a four-year member since her freshman year. She is also serving as class vice president and as the Student Council Secretary.
Neugin has been a member of the National Honor Society since her junior year and is currently serving as president. Her biggest project so far has been the creation of a winter clothing drive at school for the Tahlequah Area Coalition for the Homeless.
Since her sophomore year, Neugin has been an American Indian Resource Center freshmen mentor. She is also a member of the speech and debate team, becoming a regional qualifier during her junior and senior years. She has fundraised with the speech and debate team, and over the summer, she and three other students traveled to New York for a Broadway workshop.
Neugin was a Girl’s State delegate and participated in College Horizons. She is a three-time award-winning drum major for the Pride of Sequoyah, an All-State flutist, and a member of three separate honor bands. She has received superior ratings for flute solos at the regional level during her junior and senior years, and also at the state level her junior year.
After graduation, Neugin plans to attend Northeastern State, where she will major in pre-health and minor in music. She is a guest musician in the university’s wind ensemble, has auditioned to join its band in the fall and has been offered the President Leadership Scholarship by NSU. She’s also a finalist for the Gate’s Scholarship.
“Everything I have achieved has been made possible by my support system; my family, friends and teachers have been with me through it all,” Neugin said. “They’ve helped me grow as a person and push myself to limits I never thought existed in myself. I am forever grateful for my time at Sequoyah.”