Watch me tell my story...
My name is Valeriah and I hail from the Ihanktonwan Oyate, land of the friendly people, from Lake Andes, SD.
Valeriah is a first-generation college student.I am the eldest sibling of five, and come from a large extended family. Growing up on the reservation, I watched people I loved and cared about struggle financially and spiritually. I often remember my relatives, in particularly my mother, take away their pain by abusing alcohol and/or drugs. I knew that I wanted to break the cycle of abuse I grew up in, and decided at a young age that I was going to college to help my family, my tribe, and my people.
As a first-generation college student, I graduated with my Bachelor of science degree in December of 2014 from South Dakota State University. I have overcome many obstacles to get where I am today, and attaining my Bachelor’s degree was a huge accomplishment for me. Graduating with a Master’s degree seemed even more farfetched to me, but my hooding ceremony is right around the corner, and I am not done yet.
Over the years, I have come across opportunities to inspire and motivate others as a mentor. My biggest contribution to my community is being a mentor to other Native American youth, helping others in higher education, or others who want to see a college degree. My character and story is relatable, especially to those living on the reservation, because I, too, have come from the reservation and understand the struggles that we face as Native American people.
During my undergrad, I found ways to inspire Native American youth, whether it was through professional experiences, or just personal conversations, about the importance of a college degree. I worked as an after-school mentor to Native American middle school children at Enemy Swim Day School, and my role was to serve as a role model to students there.
In addition, I have experience as a SAIGES (Strengthening American Indian Generational Education & Success) mentor, in which I assisted Native American freshman at SDSU transition from high school to college, by offering a week of workshops in the beginning of the year and as a yearlong peer mentor.
Valeriah is the eldest sibling of five, and a mother to three.Today, I am the Student Success Advisor at Black Hills State University-Rapid City since July of 2016. I help students register for classes, assist undecided college students choose majors, and guide students to meet satisfactory academic progress while in school.
As an initiative of my own, I jumpstarted a Native American Club for students at BHSU-RC, which is called He’Sapa Oyate (People of the Black Hills). The mission of He’Sapa Oyate is to culturally support and promote student success at BHSU-RC. I know, by experience, the importance of support for Native students and have always and always will, inspire and support Native American students in higher education.
To further assist Native people, I have challenged myself professionally by becoming a Native Nation Rebuilder for Cohort 9. In the tribal leadership program, I am learning how to effectively rebuild native nations and the importance of self-determination and tribal sovereignty. I plan to use the skills and knowledge I gain through this experience, to further help Native people.
I currently reside in a two-bedroom apartment with my husband Eric and our three children: Kaymahni (9), Viviannah (7), and Kyrie (2), on the north side of Rapid City. Raising a family while working full-time and finishing my post-secondary education is difficult and almost impossible at times, but that is what makes my education even more valuable to me.
Financially, Valeriah is the sole provider for her family of five at this time.Presently, I am finishing my Masters of Education in Counseling & Human Resource Development with a specialization in Student Affairs Administration. Upon contingent completion of my Master’s, I plan to start the Ed.D. program in Adult in Higher Education through the University of South Dakota starting this summer. My hopes upon completion of my Doctorate are to either be working for a tribal university as the Director or Dean, or else be working at a public university as a Director of Multicultural Affairs.
Financially, I am the sole provider of my family of five while my husband finishes his undergraduate degree at Black Hills State University. Receiving this scholarship would not only help me pursue my dreams of becoming Dr. Big Eagle, but also would give me the support I need to inspire other Native Americans seeking a degree of higher education. I would be greatly honored to represent American Indian Education Fund as an academic scholar.
"I would like to let the scholarship donors know that I am truly grateful to be an AIEF fellow and am honored that they chose my educational journey to fund. I know that I would not be where I am today without the generous support of scholarship donors, and I truly appreciate everything they do for aspiring Native scholars like me. Pidamiyaye!"