Sometime in the near future Perry Palmer and his wife, Marcie, want to return to the Colville Indian Reservation. Young students there lack good role models, as well as incentives, Perry says. They need to be made aware of opportunities for advanced education and benefit from them as the Palmers have.

Perry completed a master’s degree in education at Washington State University in May. Marcie will finish her doctorate in counseling psychology next May.

Both are members of the Colville Confederated Tribes. They met on the reservation, where Marcie spent three years as a social worker for Child Protective Services, and were married there in 2000.

Perry accepted an athletic/academic scholarship at Oklahoma City University out of Lake Roosevelt High in Coulee Dam, but played only one year. His priorities were backwards, he says “basketball first, before studies.” And he says he had “an attitude.” He still remembers the day coach Abe Lemmons pulled him aside in practice. “You can shoot the threes, but I’d rather have you making A’s,” Lemmons said. He encouraged Palmer to take his blinders off, or someday “reality is going to hit you right in the face.”

Palmer got the message, and a social studies degree in 1994. He did his student teaching at two inner city high schools in Oklahoma City, working with “kids who were being left behind,” including gang members. He used comic books to teach them how to improve their minimal reading and writing skills. He saw teachers who had lost their fire to teach, and he didn’t want to be one of them. So putting his teaching career on hold, he spent the next six-and-a-half years in the military, serving as a combat medic with the U.S. Marine Corps in Bosnia, Albania, and Zaire.

When he returned to the reservation, he met Marcie. She had completed her bachelor’s degree in social work at Eastern Washington University and earned her Master of Social Work degree at Walla Walla College. She was pursuing a Ph.D. and encouraged him to go for a master’s degree. Perry is graduate support coordinator in the Office of Grants and Research Development. They are expecting their first child July 11th.