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A brief respite

Bernadette Herman will get a computer technology degree today when she graduates from Riverland Community College.

She will be one of 546 students graduating this spring.

She also will get a brief respite from school. She'll spend with her husband and three children, as well as work on fund-raising, volunteering and workshops about homelessness and unemployment. She heads back to Riverland in the fall to work on another two-year degree in public speaking.

Herman has spent the last 2 1/2 years working on her degree as well as three certifications in Microsoft systems administration, desktop publishing and computer applications, all while taking care of her children and managing two non-profit organizations that she started.

She started Kids Against Peer Pressure and Sex, which she says aims to make the high school experience easier, and Eyes Wide Open Now, which works with homeless and jobless people to update their resumes and build job skills.


For KAPPS, she uses her training in graphic design; for Eyes Wide Open, she teaches computer skills free of charge in St. Ansgar, Iowa, where she now lives.

Herman's last class was on Tuesday, ending her time at Riverland — at least for the time being. It is the end of about five years' worth of work.

"I have to admit, I'm really good at multi-tasking," said Herman, who will turn 44 in a few weeks.

Herman was living in Los Angeles when her first husband left her with their three children. Herman moved to Washington, but lived in a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Wa., for close to a year before she reconnected with her mother, who helped her out of the shelter.

Herman was employed for a while, but when the company she worked for decided to outsource to Mexico and China, she got money to go to college for helping to train the Mexican and Chinese workers.

"One negative turned into a positive," she said.

She came to Riverland because it's near her second husband's hometown of Beaver Creek, Minn. At first, her academic advisors were skeptical she'd be able to carry as many credits as she did, but she managed to get her associate's degree as well as her three certifications — which are important credentials in her field — within two years.

"This is kind of a new beginning," she said. "New doors have opened up."

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