Wadeñ’ nwa’ aweñha’
Sometimes trying something new can be a bit frightening, nerve-racking, and may test your metal on whether you can continue, but these three students, Regis Cook, Pricilla Cronin, and Elaina Powless are indeed special. These students are the first students to complete an Onondaga Language course at the high school level and pass an Onondaga Regents test for NYS regent’s credit.
A few years ago former Superintendent Mark Mondanaro created a forum called ‘Destination Graduation’ as a way to increase the graduation rate at the LaFayette High School. From this forum many programs were put into place including Oñgwehoñwekha’, the 9th grade Onondaga language program. These ONS graduates first had to meet the requirements of a minimun of three years of Haudenosaunee language study and pass a profiency exam. Once eligible these students had to commit to coming to school everyday to meet with their teachers (Virginia Abrams, Missy Gibson, and Bradley Powless) before the regular class day started to begin class. Once class was over these students then got on a bus and traveled up to the high school be begin their studies.To their credit these young adults committed to continue to learn more Onondaga language and culture.
States teacher Missy Gibson, “The young people are great. They studied hard and showed a real dedication to Oñgwe’hoñwe’ language and culture. We should all be proud.”
When the program began, there was an uncertanty of whether this class would be sufficient for students to receive high school language credit. But the work of the ONS language staff in examing state requirements in other languages such as French and Spanish helped. “The more we examined the French and Spanish regents,” stated Brad Powless, “we realized that with some effort that this was posssible for our kids.”
As the 2009 ONS graduating class prepared for their last finals at ONS, they were reminded of the opportunity of the 9th grade Oñgwehoñwekha’ class and the need to pass to be eligible, and all did.
As for next year’s enrollment, teacher Missy Gibson spoke kindly of this first class as guidance for the up and coming classes. “I hope future students follow in their footsteps.”
Now that a path has begun, they can.