Kasey Perez the first of seven in Native American family to choose CMU
Kasey Perez is a native of the Hannahville Potawatomi Indian Community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She’s also the first of seven women from her Native American family to attend CMU.
“When I came here my deciding factor was, I got a good scholarship to come to CMU,” she says, “but I also really enjoyed the CMU Native American programs that they were putting on. Our family had come to the CMU annual powwow a few times before, so I was always aware of CMU’s campus and the programs that they had for native students. That really stuck out to me, and I knew that I could find a home base here.”
Kasey graduated from CMU in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts. She later began working for the school and is currently the Student Transition Enrichment Program Academic Advisor. Over time, her family noticed how much Kasey enjoyed Central Michigan University, and some of them began to follow her to Mount Pleasant. They include her mother, two sisters, and three first cousins. All currently attend classes or recently graduated.
“My cousins and my siblings saw that I was really involved with things, and they were like ‘hey that’s really cool’ and they decided that they wanted to do those things, too,” says Perez. “They’re all involved with the North American Indigenous Student Organization here. They’ve all at one point or another, volunteered or worked in the Native American program’s office or here within the student inclusion and diversity office. I just really liked the programs that they had here, and I think that was a deciding factor for them, too, was seeing how much fun (it was) and how much we were learning as older students.”
For Kasey and her family, CMU’s history of honoring Native Americans was another big factor in their decision to come to Mount Pleasant.
“It’s really important that CMU is always finding ways to honor the Anishinaabe tribal land that they’re on. That’s really important to our family but also to the Anishinaabe people who are from here. I think that I’ve always felt really welcomed here and the center for student inclusion and diversity as well as Native American programs and all the different programs that we have on campus with diversity education here, have really paved the way for native students to feel welcome here.”
Now, Kasey says, her family is an example for others from her small community, to reach outside of their comfort zones to follow their dreams.
"We come from a very small rural tribal reservation. I think that it's hard for a lot of those native kids and youth to think "Can I do it? Can I go there too? Can I make it out of the reservation as well and make it?" she says. "I think that our family is a good example of showing that yes you can! We came from the same place as you; we're just making sure that we reach for those opportunities."