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Hillsborough County Public Schools Native American seniors approved to wear eagle feather during graduation ceremonies

Native American Students Approved to Wear Eagle Feather at Graduation

January 18, 2018 - Student Success

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) has approved the wearing of an eagle feather for certain Native American seniors during their graduation ceremonies, which is a new and important ceremonial honor. Wearing the eagle feather symbolizes many things, among which are leadership, spirtual belief, and academic achievement. The students will place the feather with their tassel on their graduation caps. This year, there are several seniors  who will be allowed to wear the eagle feather.  

In an understated yet emotional presentation, superintendent Jeff Eakins, school board member Susan Valdes, members of the Title VI Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and their families recently shared more details about this recognition during a PAC meeting held at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

Parent and Title VI PAC Chair Shannon Durant enlisted the help of Tony Rull, a tenth-grader at Steinbrenner High School, as they demonstrated how the feather would be worn on a graduation cap. Durant explained that she has been working on this initiative, along with the entire PAC and the HCPS Title VI Grant team, for a very long time. "It took a village to get this initiative passed," said Durant. "Of the 17 seniors that have been identified this year as eligible to choose to wear an eagle feather at graduation, all are on track to graduate on time. That equates to a 100-percent district graduation rate for Native American students in 2018!"

When asked what it means to be able to wear the eagle feather for graduation, Dylan Chrismer (who attended the PAC meeting with his parents), and is a sophomore and member of the Collegiate Academy at Lennard High School, was quite impressed to learn that when he graduates, he will be able to take part in this very meaninful tradition. Chrismer's mother is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

"Wearing the eagle feather at graduation signifies what we went through and how we prevailed. It will represent my culture, and make me proud," said Chrismer.

Superintendent Eakins shared his thoughts with families during the meeting. "You are our clients. As parents, you make a choice to have your children attend our schools. Being able to wear the eagle feather will make graduation even more meaningful for our students. Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of our Native American students and their needs." 

School board member Valdes, who was representing school board chair Sally Harris, added, "The Title VI PAC took their vision and mission and collaborated with the HCPS leadership team. That collaboration led to this initiative being approved by the district, and enabled us to be able to appreciate another example of valuing and sharing the heritage of our students."

Graduation from high school should be a significant occasion for a student and their family. HCPS believes this distinction will allow students to honor their heritage and recognize their cultural beliefs. Eagle feathers symbolize the strength it took to reach a milestone, such as graduation which is what Native American youth take with them as they graduate high school and continue on to the next stage in life.

To become more familiar with Title VI, which is designed to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native students meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards, as well as meet unique culturally related needs, please contact HCPS Coordinator Lourdes Hernandez-Gonzalez, at (813) 273-7090, or email her at

For more information on Title VI (Providing Support for Native American and Alaskan Native Students), visit:


To contact the  Hillsborough County Public Schools Office of Diversity, call Dr. Minerva Spanner-Morrow at (813) 273-7125 or email her at



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