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Senior Mariah Omeasoo graduated from the University of Montana’s College of Business and the Davidson Honors College on Saturday, Dec. 18. Mariah, who is from Browning, is the third member of her family to graduate from UM.

At first meeting, Mariah Omeasoo, a University of Montana senior, might seem like a normal college student trying to get through finals week. And for the most part, she is.

But when she’s asked to reflect on her UM experience during the last four years, that’s when the tears come.

“It was really hard,” Omeasoo said.

She apologizes, takes a minute, wipes her cheek with the sleeve of her sweatshirt and adjusts her posture.

“I always tell myself, I’m just a kid from the rez,” she said. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here. I really didn’t think I would graduate.”

But the marketing and business major recently graduated from UM’s Davidson Honors College and the College of Business.

Quiet and unassuming, Omeasoo is from Browning and the Blackfeet Nation. She’s the third person in her family to graduate from UM, following two older brothers, Vince and Marcus Omeasoo.

“Missoula was always a second home for me, so it made sense for me come here,” she said. “My brothers both majored in business, and I guess I always sort of knew that was my path.”

Her journey to UM began at Browning High School, where academics came easily to her. Her teachers encouraged her to start planning to attend college when she was a sophomore.

And in the fall of 2017, Omeasoo enrolled as a UM freshman in the honors college with several academic scholarships in hand.

That’s when the culture shock hit.

“When you’re the only Native person – surrounded completely by white students who are all smart and high-achieving and never running into someone like me – it feels like you don’t belong,” she said.

Like many UM students – before they find their footing as a college student – a feeling of loneliness can set in.

When she began coursework in the College of Business, Omeasoo didn’t see many Indigenous peers. She felt overwhelmed academically in her accounting and economics classes, and she didn’t have much experience asking for help.

“In my Tribe, you’re just always surrounded by people who know you, and asking for help isn’t something I ever had to do,” she said. “So, it was really isolating. I didn’t think I was going to pass my classes. I felt I like I didn’t belong.”

So, one day, she called her mom up and told her she was coming home.

Her mom’s reply was, “OK, quit.”

“I think she said that on purpose,” Omeasoo said. “She knew by giving me permission to drop out, that I wasn’t going to. I’m too stubborn.”

Mom’s strategy worked.

To read the complete article, pick up a copy of this week’s issue or subscribe to the Browning Glacier Reporter, Cut Bank Pioneer Press,  Shelby Promoter and The Valierian newspapers at http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/site/services/

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