Hermsen has one thing left on her bucket list, earning a college degree. She’s
on her way to achieving that goal, even though it hasn’t been easy.
“You get to an age where you
start checking things off on your bucket list, and the only regret I had was
that I never finished college,” Hermsen said.
After graduating from Seward
High School in 1972, she attended Kearney State College, but only lasted one
semester. She went straight to work and never looked back. Recently she’s had
some friends who went back to school and decided she wanted to do it, too.
There was only one problem.
“Math and I are like oil and
water,” she said with a laugh.
She first came to Southeast
Community College because it was the affordable option, she said. Since it had
been awhile since she’d been in school, Hermsen had to take some course placement
tests to determine her readiness. She passed reading and writing but not math.
She was referred to the Transitions Lab on SCC’s Lincoln Campus, where staff
would prepare her to increase math test scores through an online class, tutoring
and sample tests.
“The (course) placement exam
is the first step in this process, and this is what originally brings students
to our office,” said Geriann Rada, director of the Transitions Lab. “We work
with students whose writing, reading or math scores are too low for college
admittance, too low to get into their program or scores don’t reflect their
past gained knowledge.”
Rada said Hermsen was
frustrated at the thought of re-learning math.
“She sat down and said, ‘I’m
not going to be able to mark this off my bucket list,’ ” Rada recalled. “I told
her, ‘yes, you can study with us and get you to where you need to be.’ ”
Hermsen worked with Rada and
Transitions Advisor Shannon Brinkman until they felt she was ready to take the
test. When she took the 90-minute exam, they both waited for her in the lab and
delivered the results to a shocked Hermsen. She needed a score of 31 to pass.
She got a 40.
“I think I would’ve thrown in
the towel if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “Shannon taught me patience. She
wrote things out and gave me tips. She simplified it for me.”
The Transitions Lab turned 5
years old in April. It started as an initiative under the U. S. Department of
Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant
program. SCC operates Transitions Labs at all three campuses in Beatrice,
Lincoln and Milford. More than 2,100 students have taken advantage of the labs
“Each student comes with
their own complex situation, and we help break down those complexities into
bite-size pieces,” Rada said.
Another student, 24-year-old
Ryan Scott, recently graduated from SCC with a degree in welding. He waited
until the very end to take his English and math courses and came to the
Transitions Lab for help.
“He came to us very
frustrated and wanting to drop out of school as he had three English courses
and three math classes to take,” Brinkman said. “We helped him get down to
taking one English course and two math courses. He came to our lab almost every
day to get help.”
Scott said Brinkman and the
other advisors helped him not only with math, but with his confidence as well.
“I would never have become a
college graduate if it wasn’t for you (Brinkman),” Scott said. “You helped me
believe I could do it and believe that I am smart at things I thought I was
When Scott participated in SCC’s
Winter Quarter graduation ceremony in March, he looked out into the crowd and
saw Brinkman, Rada and the rest of the advisors. They were proud of him and
wanted to celebrate his accomplishments.
“By building these initial
relationships with the students, we find they continue coming back to us for a
multitude of reasons such as homework help, advice, tutoring, registering for
classes, or just to visit,” Rada said. “We become their home away from home,
and we also bridge students to all the different student services and resources
offered at SCC.”
Following graduation, Scott
moved to Colorado where he is working as a welder’s helper on the pipeline. He
is working his way up to being a welder.
Meanwhile, Hermsen will
continue to work as a staff assistant for the Department of Revenue while she
works on her associate degree. She said getting a degree probably won’t get her
promoted, but it will fulfill a dream she’s had for a long time.
“The best thing to happen to
me was to flunk the math, because then I was able to come here,” Hermsen said.
“It’s an awesome place with awesome people, and they want you to succeed.”
Transitions Lab Facts:
* 2,147 students registered
to work with Transitions since 2012.
* 87 percent of
re-testers improved their course placement scores.
* Students have
bypassed 1,442 courses in writing, reading and math.
* Summer 2016 was
the largest quarter with 204 students.
* 168 Transitions students
have graduated from SCC. Many others have transferred to four-year schools.
* The cost is $20
to receive access to an online course, tutoring, sample tests and a free retest.