Youth Appreciation for Chemawa Indian School Students!

On Thursday, March 4th, the Optimist Club of Salem celebrated four students from the Chemawa Indian School. School representative Coleen Ruiz introduced D’alan Vaughan Joseph, who joined the club via video, and summarized the achievements of three other students who were unable to connect to the meeting. Collectively, the students’ achievements are inspiring. The club felt very optimistic after learning about these future leaders.

Below are synopses of each student.

D’alan Vaughan Joseph

Vocational Technology

D’alan Vaughan Joseph graduated in December, after an arduous load of classes this fall. He was a Chemawa student from his freshman year through his graduation. D’alan earned recognition for his achievement in vocational training. D’alan is a self-trained barber who has been plying his scissor trade for three years. He enjoys cutting hair and sometimes spends over an hour on a haircut.

Though he doesn’t expect to make his career in barbering, D’alan sees it as a side gig that will bring him enjoyment throughout his life. His future plans are to go to college and study engineering or construction management. He’s already been accepted to several universities in Alaska—his home state—and has won a Nanook Nation scholarship to help him pay for college. D’alan credits his mom for motivating him to get good grades through high school.

He’s confident he will be successful in college because he practiced being away from home and prioritizing learning while he was at Chemawa. After meeting and talking with D’alan, club members are confident this charming young man will be both successful and popular wherever he goes.

Dawn Johnson

Humanities - English

Dawn Johnson was recognized for her achievements in the Humanities—primarily English. Dawn, a senior this year, has studied at Chemawa for four years. She began as a very shy student with lots of responsibility caring for her siblings. This year Dawn came into her own, blooming into an excellent student.

Though difficulties at home resulted in lower GPAs in a previous year, this year Dawn is earning a perfect 4.0 in her studies. Future plans are to go to a nursing program. Dawn has been accepted to Western Oregon University though has not yet decided if she will go there.

Summer Justin


Summer Justin received a Youth Appreciation award for achievements in Science and Math. Summer is a senior at Chemawa Indian School. She plans to go to college but has not chosen one yet. As a member of the Gila River Tribe in Arizona, Summer will have support to pay for her college studies.

Florene Johnson

Best All-Around Student

Florene Johnson, a senior who graduated Chemawa in December, was nominated by faculty and staff to be recognized as the best all-around Chemawa student this year. Florene earned a 4.0 GPA all of her four years at the school. She got an A in every single class she took. Ms. Ruiz predicts she will be crowned valedictorian of this year’s graduating class due to her perfect academic record.

In addition to excelling in academics, Florene served on student council, the school DAR committee, was a dorm officer every year, and was generally busy doing something with some group on campus all the time. Florene plans to attend college and has applied to Cornell, NYU, and other ivy league schools. Her goal is to become a tribal lawyer.