Marlo Kemmer thought about going back to school for several years but the time was never right. Or so she told herself.
This Sanford Health certified nursing assistant, who works in endocrinology at Sanford Southpointe Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, eventually came around to the idea that it was the right thing to do for her and her family.
She recently learned she was going to get help on this journey with a Sanford Health Equity in Education Scholarship.
It is a scholarship program that aids underrepresented and traditionally underserved populations seeking higher education. Award recipients must demonstrate exceptional character and leadership in furthering their own progress and in enriching the lives of others, especially in service, academics and community involvement and impact.
Starting as an apprentice
For Kemmer, the process began with an apprentice program that partnered Sanford with Lake Region State College in North Dakota and offered many of its classes online.
Completing the program would give her the opportunity to advance in the nursing profession. But it was going to come with financial and time-management challenges for a mother of four with two children living at home.
“I was having a conversation with one of the advisors about whether or not I could do it,” Kemmer said. “And he says, ‘Sometimes you just have to go for it.’ And so that’s what I did.”
In 2020 Kemmer’s daughter was diagnosed with carcinoma of the salivary gland. It is part of Kemmer’s Sanford story and influenced her decision to further her career at a juncture in life when many would not.
“I wanted to be able to give her the things that she needs and what my family needs,” Kemmer said. “To be honest, my salary wasn’t really cutting it. It was another thing that really prompted me to pursue this. At the time it seemed like it was one thing after another. We had to deal with her getting cancer and then dealt with a recurrence, but now we’re a year of being cancer-free so that’s really exciting. Plus, I’m in school, I have this scholarship – now we’re doing OK. ”
Scholarship covers tuition and books
Kemmer’s commitment to boosting her career via education came before she received the scholarship. Once enrolled in the apprentice program, however, a friend at work mentioned to her that Sanford had scholarship possibilities. Kemmer looked over the options and then applied.
She learned in February, via a surprise ceremony, that she had earned the scholarship. The financial burdens of her commitment to advance in her career took a positive turn.
“I expected when I went back to school that there would be a lot of out-of-pocket expenses and I was fine with that,” Kemmer said. “Now, with the scholarship, my loans are pretty much diminished. That has helped me significantly. Sanford is going to continue to help me through the apprenticeship with tuition and books. I’d call it life-changing for sure.”
Via the apprenticeship program Kemmer will become a licensed practical nurse. She intends to continue on to become a registered nurse.
“I jumped in and I’m here – it just makes sense to stay here,” Kemmer said in explaining her academic strategy.
‘Caregiving is something I love to do’
Her career in care began with a job in a group home for people with developmental disabilities. She went on to become a certified nursing assistant and worked in a nursing home.
“Caregiving is something that I love to do,” she said. “Nursing feels like a path that I’m supposed to be on.”
It made the decision to go back to school easier but it still wasn’t easy. Kemmer, 45, wondered whether she would be able to adapt to a life that would add the role of student to being a mom with a full-time job.
“Over the years I’d heard it a lot from co-workers who asked why I wasn’t going back to school to get my nursing degree,” she said. “But the circumstances weren’t right. I think it was fear-based, too. I’m like, ‘I’m so old I can’t go back to school.’”
She knows now she can handle it. Kemmer is getting excellent grades and can fit her studies in with her job and her family.
“I really didn’t realize how invested Sanford was in me until I began this,” Kemmer said. “I know they really care about me. They want to see me succeed and they want to help nurture my growth. It’s very exciting to be a part of that.”
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