The School is busy planning this year’s 90th Commencement exercises, which will take place virtually, with Baccalaureate on Thursday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. MDT and Commencement on Friday, May 22, at 7:00 p.m. MDT. There is much creative energy and enthusiasm going into making these events memorable and meaningful. The School is proud to announce that Veronique Richardson, Class of 2002, will be the Commencement speaker.
“I look forward to addressing the class on May 22!” Richardson says. “This is a full-circle honor to be invited to speak at my high school’s Commencement.”
She is a senior attorney at Barnhouse Keegan Solimon and West in Albuquerque, specializing in civil litigation and appellate work in the field of federal Indian and tribal law. Richardson is committed to serving the legal needs of many Native American communities as well as her own tribe, the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico.
Richardson was a four-year boarding student and she thrived at Fountain Valley. In 2012, she was inducted into the FVS Athletic Hall of Fame as one of the School’s greatest all-around athletes. She earned 12 varsity letters in basketball, volleyball and track, then capped off her athletic career by winning the state title in the long jump in 2002.
Fountain Valley School runs deep in her family. “It wasn’t really a question of ‘if’ I would attend FVS, but ‘when,’” Richardson says. “Education is at the forefront of my family’s core values. My grandfather always created opportunities for formal education. He truly understood the value of a well-rounded education. In fact, four of my cousins also attended Fountain Valley.” Her grandfather, Victor A. Sarracino, served as lieutenant governor and in multiple leadership roles for many terms within the tribal government. He was also the first tribal court judge for the Pueblo of Laguna.
“It was eye-opening for a young minority girl whose parents grew up on the reservation and in rural areas to attend boarding school, especially as a Native American student. Some of my family had to overcome negative stereotypes associated with boarding schools. My community had many elders who attended various Indian boarding schools scattered across the nation where native children were forcibly taken from their families in order to civilize and assimilate them into American culture—this was torture for native students and our communities. Clearly, Fountain Valley was nothing like this, but the stigma among our community is still present.”
Richardson says that Fountain Valley “enhanced” her family. “It was a long-term investment for our family to send us. We are closely tied to many traditions and community gatherings, so it was a sacrifice for us to be away. But it was a turning point in all of our lives, and one we would never change. We came from a very small world, physically, though our traditions and customs transcended many boundaries. While we always had the constant of our family, at Fountain Valley our world was enriched by being away and meeting so many intelligent and interesting people, and having opportunities to learn and travel.”
Richardson was the first in her family to graduate from college. She went to the University of California at Berkeley earning a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies, and also ran track and field there, long jumping as she had done at Fountain Valley. She holds a J.D. degree and certificate in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law.
“I practice in a specialized area of law unique to my background,” she says. “Federal Indian and tribal law are both complex for multiple reasons. Federal Indian law is rooted in case law that reaches back to the 1800s, and tribal law is multifaceted because each tribe has different laws, but I have opportunities to advocate for and protect the rights of very special communities.”
Richardson has a son, Miles, “a rambunctious, kind and intelligent 4-year-old.”
Thoughts on the Class of 2020’s Graduation
“I understand how disappointing it must be for the seniors to not be able to physically gather for Commencement and how much they have been looking forward to this day for the past four years,” she says. “But the manner in which the class handles this situation will define them far more than the ceremony ever will, and it will not erase their memories, their accomplishments, their friendships—in fact, it may even strengthen them.”