The Native American Achievement Center at Montana State University Billings has added two new employees to elevate Native American student success.
Jayson Fisher and Amber Peretz have been hired to support students within the Native American Achievement Center. Fisher began his role in October; Peretz followed this month.
Peretz, originally from Florida, is currently filling a highly competitive grant-funded AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America position. It is the first time MSU Billings has been awarded this grant since 2014. AmeriCorps VISTA positions support one-year funding for an employee to help expand programs within an organization and empower individuals and their communities to overcome poverty.
Peretz, in her role as Native Community Ambassador, will support the Native American Achievement Center’s mission by working with the greater Billings community as well as various departments across campus and will offer students guidance and support during their time at MSUB. Her role is to support the Native American Achievement Center in its journey to empower the Native student population at MSUB and offer her perspective as an educator who is focused on cultural responsiveness and social justice.
“My role is to support a larger structure here,” explains Peretz. “I can offer guidance for navigating the journey these students are currently on. The opportunity to be an AmeriCorps VISTA member is allowing me to learn more about education and culture in new ways and to be a part of community-driven work.”
“I’m so excited that we have the honor of working with the AmeriCorps VISTA program,” says Sunny Day Real Bird, director of the Native American Achievement Center. “Amber will be helping us advance MSUB’s Native American recruitment and retention efforts. This position will work alongside me and New Student Services to identify targeted high schools and tribal colleges and deepen ties with them to better serve Native students, families, and communities.”
Fisher, originally from Lame Deer, is currently finishing his associate degree at Little Big Horn College with plans to then pursue a bachelor’s degree at MSU Billings. He works to both recruit and retain students and meets with prospective students from area high schools as well as with current college students. A current student, Fisher brings his recent experiences such as applying to college and an understanding of how college works to the students he engages with.
“I went through the process of applying to school recently,” says Fisher, “so I am familiar with the steps and the departments on campus. Higher education is important, and it is okay to not know where you are going—we have resources that will help you along the way.”
“Jayson’s position will be guiding Native students through their entire college experience from enrollment through graduation,” Real Bird adds. “Jayson and the rest of the Native American Achievement Center team will be in regular contact with all current Native students to engage with them, optimize their educational opportunities, and support their personal development.”