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TUSD Native American graduates wear cultural regalia at graduation

'It feels amazing. There's no words to express it'
Posted at 6:23 AM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 09:23:40-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Lourdes Pereira, days away from being a high school graduate, now knows she gets to walk across the stage exactly the way she's always dreamed.

"It feels amazing, and there's no words to express it," Pereira said.

However, the journey to get to this place wasn't easy. In October of last year, Pereira got in front of the Tucson Unified School District governing board to express her concern about Native American students not being allowed to wear cultural regalia.

"Native youth, they were saying how they hated not being able to express their cultural on graduation night, and I didn't even know it was a problem," Pereira said.

Pereira said she used to hear stories of students wearing their regalia to graduation, and then, at the last second, taking it off and handing it to their teachers before crossing the stage.

"I started this journey because I knew it wasn't right," Pereira said.

It took months, but in March of this year, the board voted unanimously to allow Native American students to wear cultural regalia on graduation all because of Pereira. She said she's proud to do this for her people, but it's her siblings who inspired her to keep fighting.

"For me to have changed that and now knowing that they're going to be able to express their cultural, wear their regalia on graduation, it means more than the world to me, honestly. It's everything," Pereira said.

Her friends said all her hard work means a lot to them.

"Being able to wear my regalia, I feel very honored," Lourdes friend Adriana Lopez Perez said. "I feel my ancestors are right here next to me, walking me down the aisle."

Periera said she has plans to go to Arizona State University and study criminal justice. Her goal is to be a civil rights lawyer and continue to help indigenous people.