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2010 June 14 - 12:00 am

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Nebraska Mom Perseveres, Earns College Degree

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) — Dressed in her green gown and cap, Gina Olson was among the students set to receive her diploma.

She walked into the gym during a rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” and sat with the other students.

The 33-year-old woman recently took the time during the commencement ceremony to look up into the stands, singling out a small group of people. She smiled and blew them kisses. Among them were her children, Brandan and Virginia, and her husband, Scott.

Olson was already a licensed practical nurse, but spent the last several years working toward earning her associate degree in nursing at Central Community College-Columbus. She has been employed at Central Community Hospital for seven years.

A while back, though, she decided she wanted more.

It was a challenging road to walk down. A nontraditional student with children, a husband and a job, she was resolute in pushing herself.

“She’s very outgoing, very determined. If she wants something, she will go out and get it,” Scott Olson said.

Gina Olson started taking just a few of the required classes when she had the time, then began taking summer courses to get her associate’s degree.

Her first go-around with secondary education came after she graduated from Columbus High School. She was working odd jobs here and there, but always had a desire to be a nurse. That probably is because her ailing grandfather lived with her parents when she was younger.

“I have such a compassion for people. Helping people gives me a sense of joy,” she said.

Before she met and married Scott, she was a single parent, so juggling a job, school, her son and finances was a challenge.

Olson’s second stint as a college student came with a bit of added pressure. Brandan was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Now married and a mother of two, Olson and her husband also had hectic schedules that allowed them barely any time to see each other.

And Olson herself went through a health scare. Last year, a noncancerous growth was found on her back.

With stress piling up, it would have been easy to quit.

“Every day I felt guilty. I thought, ‘Am I doing something wrong? Should I stop and just be a mom?’” Olson said.

But her family continued to push her. She said her mom and stepfather, Sheryl and Rick Klug, were a big help in caring for her children by getting them to places and helping Brandan with school work. Scott also took on added responsibilities at home.

Now that her mission has been accomplished by attaining her degree, Olson said she might not be done with her education. She could see herself going back to school one day.

Comments: editor@ccweek.com

Also from JULIE BLUM, Columbus Telegram

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