TRIO Achievers – Joanne Lee, Montana Tech UB, and Kasey Hale, Black Hills State University TS and SSS
In the spring of 2008, I was given the opportunity to tour the BHSU campus. I decided I would complete my undergraduate studies there. Marion Blue Arm was my TS advisor from 7th – 12th grade and worked with us on career and college choices. One of the colleges she informed me about was BHSU and the TRIO SSS program available there. Susan Hupp the SSS director at that time, and her staff continued TRIO benefits for me and proved extremely helpful during my undergraduate years. They offered me tutoring, scholarships, and the use of equipment such as calculators and/or textbooks.
My family ranches on the Cheyenne River Reservation. We didn’t have much growing up, but because of the harsh circumstances of our area, both economically and environmentally, things weren’t always easy. We faced a lot of challenges growing up. Primarily, when other students were able to join numerous extracurricular events, we needed to return home immediately after school to help out on the ranch via an hour long bus route. Our chores started before school, summer or winter, no matter what the weather was, and they continued until dark. We were not given any handouts, but had to earn every cent we wanted to spend on extra things for ourselves. And as much as I love and appreciate the agriculture lifestyle, I knew I wanted to pursue a college degree. As of today, of three siblings, I was the first one to complete a bachelor’s degree: I proudly and gratefully obtained my Bachelors of Science in Composite Science Education from BHSU and initially went on to teach Science/Math to high school/jr. high students in Eagle Butte and Faith for the next five years. In 2016, I graduated with my master’s degree in Education Administration and I was hired as the K-12 principal at the Faith School District in 2018. I am currently completing my second year.
TRIO programs, both Educational Talent Search and later Student Support Services on the college level gave me much needed caring support and made my life easier while I studied in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree!
When I was in high school, I always knew I wanted to go to college, but as a first generation college student I did not know what it meant to go to college or how to get there. The Upward Bound program opened doors for me that I did not even know existed. It gave me skills to achieve my goal and be successful in life; showed me what it was like to live on campus; and built a support system for me so that I could focus on what was important and what I need to achieve my goals.
After enrolling at Montana Tech my support system continued, when I needed help with a difficult class or someone to talk too, the Upward Bound staff was there for me. The contacts I made during the Upward Bound summer program landed me a job on campus. My campus job turned into the department investing in my undergraduate degree, graduate degree, and permanent employment. I had never dreamed of a graduate degree when I was in high school.
Shortly after finishing my master ’s degree, I found my true passion on campus, grant and contract accounting. While working in the Office of Sponsored Programs at MT Tech I have worked is several roles and I am currently the Director. I oversee $14M+ in expenditures each year along with financial reporting and compliance. I have the pleasure of continue to work with the Upward Bound program and all of the TRIO programs offered through the Institute for Educational Opportunities at MT Tech.
Looking back, I never dreamed I would be where I am today. I am thankful there are programs that can help students open up a new future that they did not even know existed or was possible.