TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School has named Ryly Ziese as the class of 2021 valedictorian and Liliana Martinez as salutatorian.

Sequoyah High School’s commencement ceremony for the class of 2021 seniors will take place at Gable Field at Northeastern State University on May 14, at 6:30 p.m., using social-distancing recommendations and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This group of students has endured one of the most challenging times, but they have shown resilience and dedication in reaching this incredible achievement,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. “The Cherokee Nation has always had a solid commitment to education, and it’s a dedication that we’re proud to continue today. We look forward to seeing everything that the SHS class of 2021 can and will accomplish in the years to come. Whether they decide to further their education or explore career opportunities, we know these graduating students will be contributors to the future of our tribe.”

The graduating class of 67 students has a Gates Millennium Scholar and several students who have accepted scholarships from Northwestern in Illinois, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Loyola, the University of Arkansas, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Tulsa.

“The Sequoyah High School class of 2021 is one to be commended. Their willingness to confidently step up and tackle our shared challenges that we all experience fills me with hope,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “It’s a hope for our future. I think when we all look back, we will remember their resilience and dedication.”

Ryly Ziese, of Cookson, Oklahoma, is the daughter of Sean and Ginger Ziese. She is the Sequoyah High School valedictorian with a weighted GPA of 4.59. Ziese will be attending the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She has garnered honors like Oklahoma Indian Honor Society for four years, she was selected OSSAA All State – One Act Play and named OSSAA Regional All Star – One Act Tournament. She was bestowed medals for geometry, algebra II and physical science, she was named National Honor Society president during senior year and was the SHS Student Council secretary for two years.

“I loved the overall experience of going to Sequoyah High School - experiences like being able to walk into a classroom and feeling like you’re at home,” Ziese said. “SHS has really prepared us for all of our future plans: the college classes they let us take, the honors classes they have here, the extracurricular activities. The teachers here just really want you to get better and better every day. It’s something that I really appreciate and will keep with me even after graduation.”

Through concurrent enrollment, Ziese earned 34 credit hours from Northeastern State University during high school. She has already received the Sequoyah High School Alumni Association Scholarship, Cherokee Scholars Scholarship, and the James R. Upton Memorial Scholarship, Lake Region Electric Company Youth Tour Scholarship, the Cherokee Nation Valedictorian Scholarship, the Cherokee Nation Undergraduate Scholarship and has numerous scholarship applications still pending.

Liliana Martinez, of Tahlequah, is the class salutatorian with a weighted GPA of 4.52. She will be attending the University of Oklahoma this fall and plans on majoring in environmental science. While at Sequoyah, Martinez received such medals as the Physical Science Excellent Academic Award, and the Cherokee I Excellent Academic Award. She’s an Oklahoma School of Science and Math graduate in calculus I & II, and physics. She was selected for College Horizons and coordinated and organized “Elder Outreach” her junior year. She was selected to the National Honor Society, was the class treasurer during her sophomore and junior years and was the class secretary in her senior year. Martinez also focused on bringing awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

“My most positive Sequoyah High School experience was the growth, how our teachers push us to do our best and get out there. They pushed us to our boundaries and to get out of our comfort zones. I believe by them doing that I was able to grow into the woman that I am today,” Martinez said. “I believe Sequoyah has prepared me very well since they offer us concurrent courses, which they helped pay for our classes. That is very helpful since some of us struggle financially. With our honor classes, I believe they help us too. because they try to teach us in a way that we’re going to be taught in college.”

Martinez, the daughter of Linda Lopez and Duane “Howdy” Osceola, plans to major in environmental science at the University of Oklahoma.

While attending Sequoyah High School, Martinez completed 10 hours of concurrent enrollment at Northeastern State University. She has received the Cherokee Nation Undergraduate Scholarship, the OU Sword Scholarship, the Oklahoma Promise, the Pell Grant, and the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant. She also has several scholarship applications that are still pending.

“And just having the teachers there, supporting you all the way, encouraging you to do things that you want to do - it has influenced me to believe that I can do anything that I put my mind to,” Martinez said.

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