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TERS student appointed to student advisory board

By Lailani Upham

Two Eagle River School Junior, Jerome Finley has been recently selected on the Montana State Student Advisory Board for the 2014-2015 school year. Finley is the first from TERS to be a representation for Native students to the board. (Lailani Upham photo) Two Eagle River School Junior, Jerome Finley has been recently selected on the Montana State Student Advisory Board for the 2014-2015 school year. Finley is the first from TERS to be a representation for Native students to the board. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — Monday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau announced the addition of 31 new members to her statewide Student Advisory Board. Two Eagle River Student and CSKT member Jerome Finley was one of 39 high schools students to serve for the 2014 – 2015 year.

Finley, an honor roll student, says he sees this appointment as a learning experience, and the opportunity to work with other students from around the state and hear their views, and working together to adjust and modify what works and doesn’t work to keep students graduating in Montana schools.

“We are extremely proud. He is a very deserving of this opportunity,” stated Jami Hansen, TERS Anatomy/Physiology and P.E. teacher.

“He is dedicated and hard-working and will represent not only himself but the tribe and the school. He is a great kid,” added Hansen.

Finley says as a Native representative he would like to see better quality for Native students in the public schools.

Finley has spent most of his school years in the public school system in Polson and now is attending TERS, which is a Bureau of Indian Education funded school where the student population is mainly tribal students from CSKT and other tribes in Montana.

He said two issues that he sees Native students face in public schools is “inequality” and “respect.”

“It’s an ongoing problem,” he stated.

Superintendent Juneau said, “I’m really excited to welcome these new members to the Student Advisory Board. I have personally read each student’s application and the recommendations from adults in their lives.” She continued, “The unique perspective each student brings to the Board is extremely valuable as we work community by community to improve the graduation rate and educational opportunities for all students.”

Penny Kipp, CSKT Tribal Education Director, states she is thrilled to see TERS represented on the state student advisory board.

Kipp says she sees Finley as an academically-grounded student and a culturally-grounded young man. “We have a lot of great young people and glad to see Jerome heading that way.”

Kipp says she is excited to see tribal youth leadership being exercised.

Student Advisory Board members are nominated by local schools and community members and also must apply for selection to the board. The board members are in grades 9 through 12 and come from rural communities such as Box Elder and Hysham to larger communities such as Helena and Billings. They are meant to represent the diverse range of experiences and backgrounds of Montana students.

Finley surely represents the Native population in Montana – bringing along experiences that are not only isolated to TERS or the Flathead reservation – but felt state-wide.

Another dilemma that Finley says he sees not only for Native students, but most students across the country, is bullying Finley shared.

Speaking from experience, in the public schools he attended were teachers that “turned a blind eye” to it; and for the most part he says – for Native students.

“High school is becoming a psychological warfare,” he said.

His opinion of the experience he felt in the Polson public school is the attitude from students and faculty at times where the experience is that if you are not in a certain circle such as being “rich” or “on the football team” you were not simply devalued, but bullied.

He wants to see this change.

With one year of school left, he says he worries for his younger sister who is still in middle school.

His future after high school is to attend Citadel Military Academy or attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire or the University of Washington in Seattle.

Finley who is a fan of science, math and social studies says his role models have been Albert Einstein; Galileo, an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution; and his mother, Dr. Elaine Frank and his father Dr. Vernon Finley.

Finley says he is now studying metaphysics on his own time; it is not offered at TERS.

TERS Math teacher Marie Vanderhoof applauded Finley as well stating, “Jerome is hard-working and extremely creative and so polite and insightful.”

Finley says what he finds personally helpful in “fighting” the “psychological warfare” that goes through the mind and emotions of he and many teens in school is through hiking, playing guitar and art.

In the bigger picture of life, Finley’s philosophy is “It’s not about what you wore, did or said in high school that will matter – it’s what you learned.”

The Student Advisory Board is part of Superintendent Juneau’s statewide initiative, Graduation Matters Montana. Graduation Matters Montana aims to increase the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

The first meeting of the 2014 - 2015 Student Advisory Board will be held October 9 and 10 in Helena.

More information about the Student Advisory Board, including the full list of 2014-2015 Student Advisory Board members, is available on OPI’s Graduation Matters Montana website:

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