Heritage High School’s Myrna Red Leaf. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Heritage High School’s Myrna Red Leaf. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Culture, community count for Heritage High senior

TULALIP — Myrna Red Leaf, 17, is an athlete and student leader who takes pride in her cultural heritage. She is more likely to say “we” than “I,” reflecting her love of community.

Question: You play basketball and volleyball. What else are you involved in?

Answer: I used to be in our tribal Youth Council, and then I got overwhelmed with school and things. But we did a lot with that and it was interesting. We were the first kids who got to sit in on a board meeting to elect the board of directors. So it was interesting. We talked about issues with the youth and how to get kids involved. … We were just concerned with our youth, as other tribes are, I’m sure. We want to get them more involved, keep them busy, give them something to do.

I’m also on the school’s ASB. I’m the secretary. We plan events, like Spirit Week and assemblies. We have a lot of fun with that.

Q: Do you have a favorite activity?

A: I like to go with my family to pow wows and we like to dance. I’m a jingle dress dancer That’s one of my favorite things to do. I like to think it helps me keep in touch with my culture and where I’m from. We just had a pow wow here a few months ago for Christmas. There’s a lot coming up, especially in spring and summer.

Q: Tell me more about the jingle dress dancing.

A: I wear full regalia that has jingles on them and beadwork that my auntie made. We dance to traditional pow wow songs.

Q: Your class load right now includes computer coding, “Lushootseed 101,” financial algebra, creative writing, world geography and senior civics. Do you have a favorite?

A: I’m kind of tied between Lushootseed and creative writing.

I think it’s cool we brought this class to our school to learn the language. It started this year. It was all new to me. It’s mostly speaking, and we’re beginning to be introduced to writing.

In creative writing, I love how I can explain my thinking, opinions and view on life, freely — and get to think more about what I think of the world. … We get prompts every day, questions. One of my favorites was “Your first.” It made you reflect — first kiss, first day of high school. It was a cool way to reflect on where I had been and where I am now.

Q: What do you plan to do after high school?

A: I’m planning to go to Everett Community College and get my associate degree and then transfer once I figure out what I want to do. I was thinking about being a social worker, and coming back here and working with my tribe.

Q: Is there anyone who comes to mind as a mentor or someone who inspires you?

A: My mom (Winona Shopbell-Fryberg). She’s really strong and independent. She always supports me in anything I do.

Q: What do you like about the sports you play?

A: (In basketball) I like how it pushes you — and makes you more determined. With volleyball, it made me learn to work as a team. You need to work as a team, so you need to build strong relationships.

Q: What is it like to be a senior?

A: It’s scary to think that it’s all right here and I’m going to be an adult now. It’s crazy how fast these years went by. I just remember being a freshman.

Q: What stands out the most to you, over your high school years?

A: Accomplishing goals that I set for myself as a freshman — keeping my grades up — and getting the most experiences I can out of high school.

Q: Do you have any advice for a teen just starting high school?

A: Set goals for yourself and keep reminding yourself of them.

Q: What is it like to go to a small school like Heritage?

A: I think it’s really cool, especially at this school. We’re on a first-name basis with all our teachers. We build stronger relationships with everyone because we’re so close.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com, 425-339-3432.

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