Cindy Ressegger of Brainerd could be described as a master juggler.
Not only is she a single mother to three girls, ages 11, 7 and 3, but she also works at two jobs all while attending classes full time at Central Lakes College.
Ressegger’s balancing act was rewarded Thursday night, when she graduated with honors from Central Lakes College in Brainerd with an associate’s degree. Next up for the 38-year-old will be a 12-month accelerated program to earn her bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior from College of St. Scholastica.
Her degree from CLC is just the first step. Her future goal, and the reason she enrolled in college three years ago, is to work as an advocate for women.
“I’d been through a really difficult relationship, situation, and I feel like if you can make it through it and learn from it you owe it, you’re obligated to help other people,” Ressegger said.
It had been 18 years between Ressegger’s high school graduation and when she walked into Central Lakes College for the first time. Ressegger said she was scared, not just with the prospect of balancing family, work and school but with the prospect of having to learn the basics all over again.
“Yeah, I shed a few tears trying to figure out algebra,” she said.
Ressegger turned to TRIO Student Support Services at CLC for help. She said her TRIO adviser, Jane Vogt, was like a second mother helping her out not just with academics but supporting her through difficult personal times.
“I don’t think I would be graduating today if it wasn’t for TRIO,” Ressegger said.
Vogt described Ressegger’s triumph over adversity as “awesome.”
“There were tough times, she went through some tears but she kept coming back,” Vogt said. “When I see her grades every semester I don’t know how she does it.”
Ressegger graduated with a 3.6 grade point average. She said if you would have talked to her two weeks ago, before finals, she would have told you she wouldn’t make it to graduation. On Thursday, knowing her mother, three daughters, three sisters and several friends were in the stands to cheer her accomplishment, Ressegger is ready to tackle her next challenge.
“I can keep going, I can do it,” Ressegger said. “Last week I didn’t think I could do it any more. I think I can breath now and face another challenge.”
Ressegger was one of 1,100 students who applied to graduate at the Central Lakes College campuses in Staples and Brainerd, a record, CLC President Larry Lundblad said Thursday. He asked all the graduates to remain life-long learners.
“Graduates, we wish you all the best as you take the next step,” Lundblad said.
About 325 graduates attended Thursday’s ceremony at the Brainerd High School gymnasium, where the keynote speaker was Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
Swanson praised the graduates’ hard work, drive and commitment.
“Every one of you made sacrifices to be here tonight, to reach your goal,” Swanson said. Graduates, you should be very proud tonight because I can tell you this, everybody is very proud of you.”
Also speaking at the ceremony were Suresh Tiwari, CLC vice president of academic and student affairs; Craig Schoenecker, MnSCU director of research, who offered the office of the MnSCU chancellor’s greetings; Tony Allen, CLC Student Senate president; and Kari Frisch, a 1990 CLC alumna, who offered the CLC Alumni Association remarks.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.