Life moves fast. For Jessica Jimerson (Bear Clan), the past 5 years have been a whirlwind. After graduating high school from Ellicottville in 2019, she knew she wanted to go to college, but was unsure of which path to take or where she should go.

Jessica grew up in Gowanda, New York, south of Buffalo on Seneca territory. As a freshman at Ellicottville, she learned she had exceptional skills in accounting.

“I took an accounting class, and it was a dual-credit class through the Jamestown Business College,” Jessica explained.

It was her teacher, Ms. Mason, who told her of her obvious talent with debits and credits.

“I was getting hundreds on tests, and she asked me if I ever thought about accounting as a career,” she added. “As the year progressed, I started enjoying it more. She thought I’d be really good at it, which really got me excited about what I thought I could do.”

When she graduated in the spring of 2019, Jessica’s boyfriend, Jake, wanted to move to Missouri to be closer to his family, so Jessica started looking at colleges down there. His cousin, Kari, attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg – about an hour outside of Kansas City – and told her to check it out because of its well-known accounting program.

Jessica decided to take a tour and loved the atmosphere. She raved about its big college feel, but smaller class sizes. She even got a head start on required courses because of her dual-credit classes in high school.

“Since I had dual credits, I didn’t have to take the introduction classes, which was a relief,” Jessica said. “And the professors were excellent, everyone was super nice.”

Jessica Jimerson (Bear Clan) holds her diploma.

She was on track to graduate early, but decided to enroll in the school’s master’s program, which she could complete with just an extra semester of classes. Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2022 – a full year earlier than expected – with a 3.3 GPA. In the fall of 2023, her master’s degree program was completed as well.

The accomplishment was especially significant as she was pregnant for the 2021 fall semester and much of the 2022 spring semester. Her son, Kirkey, was born on March 5, 2022.

“It was really hard to navigate,” Jessica admits. “Being a first-time mom, you don’t know what’s going on, and luckily my mom was able to come down and help me.”

Her mom, Rene Jimerson, went down for around two months to ease that major transition. As the only one in her family in Missouri, Jessica was grateful her mom could take some time to help her out and watch her son while she went to class.

The school also helped when it could. Professors accommodated Jessica via Zoom when she couldn’t make the hour drive or had sleepless nights.

Thanks to all the support she received and her hard work in earning her degrees, Jessica is well-prepared to pursue her dream career. The main reason she wanted to add a master’s degree was to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, so she could be licensed and apply to the four big accounting firms – Deloitte, Price Waterhouse, Ernst & Young, and KPMG.

“I’ve been debating if I want to have a job while studying for the CPA exam because they changed the requirements for how long you can take to get it,” Jessica said. “It’s really a big undertaking.”

She is also interested in forensic accounting and would jump at the opportunity to add a certificate in criminal justice if the opportunity arose. But right now, she is focused on getting her CPA.

Jessica is excited about what the future will hold, and she is grateful for the opportunities the Oneida Indian Nation’s Scholarship Program afforded her. The Nation’s Scholarship Coordinator, Matt Crary, guided her through the oftentimes complex financial aid process.

“[Former Scholarship Coordinator] Lindsey Langdon was so supportive, and the transition to Matt was really smooth,” Jessica said. “They didn’t have to check in as often as they do, and I really appreciate that.”

The stipend during the semester is also helpful for students. Being able to focus on academics ensures Members can get the most out of their programs.

“There are costs that you don’t really think about,” she added. “Then there are daycare costs, gas for commuting, textbooks…and so it helps with that too, and I’m just really grateful for that.”

Now equipped with two degrees, Jessica is ready to move forward in her career. She knows she owes a great deal to her family, who have been a constant support base.

“I just want to thank them for calling me every once in a while just making sure I’m okay,” Jessica said. “It’s so nice to hear from them and that they’re thinking about me.”