TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School has named Boniblu Choate as the class of 2020 valedictorian and Chelbie Turtle as salutatorian.

Sequoyah High School has tentatively set a commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 seniors to take place at the Chota Conference Center on July 31, at 6 p.m., using social-distancing recommendations and pending guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The class of 2020 graduates are part of a generation of Cherokees who enter a world of great challenges, but also great opportunities,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This year’s graduates will find a world of opportunities right here in Cherokee Nation. In fact, whether we succeed as a nation will in large measure be determined by whether we support and encourage young Cherokees here in Cherokee Nation and across the country. Among them are future leaders of our health system, our businesses, our communities and our government. So, to the graduates of 2020, I want you to know your nation and its leaders are proud of you. Whether you are entering a career or going on to further your education, we are here to support you. But, we also ask that you remember your roots. Remember the generations that came before you. Remember those who helped save Cherokee Nation and those who worked to build it strong. Remember that in the years to come your people need you, and your nation needs you, if we are to become even stronger.”

The graduating class of 90 students has a Gates Millennium Scholar, several students who have accepted scholarships from The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, Northeastern State University and University of Arkansas, and two students who have accepted to attend Columbia and Dartmouth in the fall.

“The Sequoyah High School class of 2020 is one to be commended for their accomplishments, and for their commitment and strength during these difficult times,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “This year’s graduating class has shown great leadership and I know, without a doubt, this class of graduates will go on to do great things in their lives. I wish them the best of luck and a bright future as they move on to the next chapter in their life.”

Choate, 17, of Tahlequah is the daughter of Jayson and Jolyn Choate. She is the Sequoyah High School valedictorian with a weighted GPA of 4.55. Choate will be attending the University of Arkansas with plans to major in creative writing. She aspires to become an author or professor. Choate received the Cherokee Nation Valedictorian Scholarship worth $1,000 and the New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award, which covers 90 percent of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students.

“Graduating as the valedictorian for 2020 means a lot to me. It has shown me that hard work does pay off, and that what’s possible is up to you,” Choate said. “In the end, I am most proud to be graduating from a school that feels like family.”

Through concurrent enrollment, Choate earned 30 credit hours from Northeastern State University during high school. She also participated in National Honor Society and the academic team. This year, the academic team achieved regional and area championships as well as, for the first time in Sequoyah High School history, becoming state qualifiers.

Some of Choate’s achievements include being selected as a Girls State delegate by the Oklahoma American Legion Post 135, and winning second place in the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Essay Contest. She also is a 2019 graduate from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics at the Indian Capital Technology Center.

“Going to Sequoyah High School has been the most amazing experience I could ever hope for. I have met so many awesome people and made wonderful memories,” said Choate. “I would like to thank my family, friends, and teachers for always having my back and making every day a good one.”

Turtle, 19, of Tahlequah, is the class salutatorian with a weighted GPA of 4.40. She will be attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah this fall and will be a part of the school’s Honors Program. As a member of Northeastern State University’s Honors Program, she will receive the Honors Program Scholarship worth nearly $50,000 over four years through the Oklahoma Academic Scholars Program. She also received the Cherokee Nation Salutatorian Scholarship worth $750 and the Cherokee Nation Foundation Sequoyah Alumni Scholarship.

“As a freshman, I set a goal to graduate in the top 10 percent of my class. I continued to prioritize my education, and by hard work and determination, I was able to surpass my initial goal and achieve this amazing honor,” Turtle said. “I am very proud and humbled that I am able to represent my graduating class in this position.”

Turtle, the daughter of Jeff and Lisa Trice-Turtle, plans to double major in corporate communications and business administration while attending Northeastern State University. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to pursue a law degree and ultimately hopes to make a positive impact through her legal career or her desire to establish a nonprofit foundation.

While attending Sequoyah High School, Turtle completed 33 hours of concurrent enrollment at Northeastern State University. She also participated in National Honor Society, Honoring Our Peoples Existence Club, yearbook, Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society and Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council among others.

Some of Turtle’s leadership roles include serving as Cherokee Nation’s 2014-15 Junior Miss Cherokee, and 2017-18 Junior Miss Indian Oklahoma. She was secretary of National Honor Society, editor of yearbook, president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council, and an after-school tutor. She was also selected as a 2019 Oklahoma Girls State delegate and served as the Secretary of Native American Affairs, as well as was awarded the Outstanding Reporter Award. 

“I would first like to thank my family and friends for their endless love and support throughout my entire educational journey,” said Turtle. “As a student at Sequoyah, I have had the opportunity to be taught, encouraged, and empowered by some of the best teachers and counselors. I could not have achieved this honor alone, and I will be forever thankful for my time spent at Sequoyah.”