The Whole Child: Lakota Worthington, Pellston graduate

During the Nov. 1, 2021, Area-Wide Professional Learning Day, Char-Em staff prepared a special video to share with regional educators demonstrating their impact on students and families. Each of the speakers represented one of the five tenets of the Whole Child philosophy: Safe, Healthy, Engaged, Challenged, and Supported. Parts of the speakers’ stories were compiled for the video.

This is the full story provided by Lakota Worthington, representing the Healthy tenet.

My name is Lakota Worthington, and I’m a 2020 graduate of Pellston High School. I look back with gratitude at the incredible support the school district, its staff, and the community gave to me during one of the hardest times of my life.

My dad and I moved to Pellston when I was in 8th grade. I had attended a number of different schools during my early years, so it was so comforting to stay in Pellston and it truly felt like home. I would say I thrived there. Everybody was so nice and welcoming.

Right away, some new friends encouraged me to play football and basketball. That was the first year I did school sports. I was a little nervous, but my dad encouraged me to go for it, so I did, and I made both teams. I also started running track, to keep in shape for all the sports seasons.

In high school football, we didn’t have a very big team so I played quite a few positions. By senior year, we had really come together as a team and we had a winning season for the first time at Pellston since 1995. We also made it to the playoffs – a first in school history. The outpouring of support from our community was so awesome, almost unbelievable. It was like a Cinderella story.

While we were having this amazing football season, I was dealing with a really difficult personal loss. At the end of my junior year, my dad, Kevin, passed away. It was just he and I living together, and so I was left on my own. One of my brothers had also just passed away, two months prior to my dad.

It’s amazing how you can go through such difficult times, but be uplifted by the people around you. While I was devastated to lose my father and be living on my own at age 18, the support I received from the school district, community, and my tribe, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, truly got me through.

Outwardly, as a three-sport athlete, I was very healthy. Physical health has always been important to me. The school superintendent, Stephen Seelye, principal Enos Bacon, basketball coach Larry Cassidy, and many others made sure that emotionally I was ok, too. Mr. Seelye lost his own father when he was young, so he connected with me in a way that was meaningful and so supportive. Mr. Bacon had been my coach for many years, and he was always there, asking me how I was doing, and what I needed. He had a lot of faith in me. During basketball season, Mr. Cassidy was another person who really stepped in to support me. He would help me in any way that he could. He would pull me aside after practice to check in on me.

My math teacher, Mrs. Carter also took the time to help me learn and better understand math. It was an area where I struggled, and she really went out of her way and took extra time with me.
The community support, too, was truly touching. I had help at every turn. I remember our graduation parade, which was done instead of a ceremony because of COVID. Community members, fire trucks, ambulances and police cars traveled in a parade past every graduate’s house. It really surprised me! They were all congratulating us – it was so cool.

As graduation approached, I started thinking about my future plans. I was hopeful to be able to work with the tribe in some capacity after graduating. In March of 2021, I was offered a position as the administrative assistant to our tribal chair, at the government offices in Harbor Springs. It was an excellent opportunity for me. I am also pursuing my associate’s degree in business administration from Bay Mills Community College.

When I think back to high school, I continue to be so grateful for everything that Pellston schools did for me during the hardest time of my life. They kept me in Pellston and made sure I was healthy, cared for, and supported as I navigated this difficult upheaval in my life.

I knew that I wanted that last football season to be dedicated to my dad. I wanted to make him proud and show him that I could do it. The coolest part is that we did. We started to believe in ourselves, and we made sure to bring each other up. That is exactly what the Pellston community did for me.

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