Happiness is family, community service and education for Jerilynn Munson.
The rural Pequot Lakes mother of six has an ambitious educational pursuit, aided recently by the awarding of a full-ride scholarship to Central Lakes College
"My goal is pharmacy," said Munson, recipient of the Nisswa Women's Club award, just the third full-ride student at CLC. "Getting in to pharmacy schools is difficult, so I plan to have a four-year degree backup plan."
She hasn't closed the door on biomedical science and the excitement of a career related to biochemistry.
Last spring she graduated with high honors from CLC, earning the associate in arts degree. Husband Tom and their three remaining school-age children at home have provided unfailing support for Jerilynn's plan.
As other CLC students have discovered, additional transfer courses on campus can be applied toward the eventual undergraduate degree elsewhere. For Munson, the next stop may be St. Cloud State or Bemidji State. The nearest College of Pharmacy is in Duluth at the University of Minnesota.
"Pharmacy is eight years" of study, she said. Biomedical science and biochemistry are four-year degree pursuits to which she could avail herself on a path toward the profession of choice.
Munson is no stranger to academic success, having achieved National Honor Society membership and salutatorian honors with the Class of 1979 at Pine River High School. Her grade-point average of 3.7 might have attracted the attention of any number of college recruits.
But she settled into the marriage mode and a life of service beyond family as a volunteer in 4-H, Boy Scouts, school and church activities, and grassroots government as a 12-year member of the Maple Township Board of Trustees, including service as treasurer.
Today she is a degree-carrying, 4.0 GPA student, a testament to her discipline and ability to juggle family life, a part-time job and the academic rigor.
"I've had quite a few part-time jobs, from bookkeeper to educational assistant to my present nursing assistant job," she said. "The impetus pushing me to CLC was my job at Pequot Lakes as educational assistant. I loved working with the students and the demand for special education teachers was high."
She appreciated the opportunity to start close to home with her college studies more than two decades after her first venture, a year studying accounting at Brainerd Area Vocational Technical Institute (before starting the family). "I quit after a year, because the accounting program wasn't as interesting as getting married seemed to be. Then the babies started arriving and time flew by," she said with a smile.
"My husband was very supportive of the idea (of returning to college)," she said. While checking out career choices, she learned of an expected shortage of pharmacists. This, plus the income potential of such a career, piqued her interest.
"The years needed to complete the degree were rather daunting," she said, "but as a wise person once told me, 'You'll still be 50 in a few years, whether you're in school or not.'"
One of the attractions of pharmacy is that she probably would not have to relocate once she has earned the degree, she said. "Every small town has a pharmacy. Cities have them in hospitals, department stores, clinics."
She considers this a big plus. "We're pretty firmly rooted in this area," Munson said, noting her husband is employed with Anderson Brothers Construction of Brainerd.
"Jerilynn has been a wonderful student to work with," said Jane Vogt, counselor in the Student Support Services program. "She is a role model for adult students returning to college. It has been very rewarding for me to work with Jerilynn and assist her with her transfer plans to a university for pre-pharmacy."
The Nisswa Women's Club, which joins the first full-ride benefactors, Fran and Clarence Holden, in pioneering the CLC full-ride scholarship, selected Munson from a field of applicants. Through interviews and applicant profiles, they decided Munson was an obvious choice.
Helping with the selection were Joan Loch, club president, and Eunice Wiebolt, past president and Scholarship Committee chair.
"This is a tremendous help," said Munson, a first-generation college student from her parents' family, which includes siblings who have earned degrees. "I am very pleased to be able to continue to fulfill my educational goals."
Jamie Risnes of Crosby (2003) and Lauren Seipp of Nisswa (2004) were the first and second to receive full-ride CLC scholarships, those awarded through the Holdens' support of the CLC Foundation.
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