Senior caregiver turns grad

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sheila Weier graduated from Buena Vista University Sunday Her family and friends couldn't be more proud.

After being out of school for 20 years, Weier enrolled in college at the urging of her employers at Sioux Care Center and her family. It took her five years of attending night classes and Saturday classes to complete her work .

"This corporation (Hawkeye Care Center, affiliated with M and D Hamm, Inc.) mold their employees to succeed," Weier said, adding that she had been serving as the activities director at the care center for nearly 10 years at that point.

"They were looking at the future and knew I was going to be here."

It was suggested that she return to school to earn a degree in administration. Four years ago, Weier was named as assistant administrator.

"I though about it but to go back to school costs so much money and you need the support of the people you work with and your family."

Her children - Craig and Kayla - both in high school at the time said she needed to do what she wanted to do and her nephew Nick Burns told her "go for it and not look back." Husband Mike also shared his support.

Administrator Sandy Treveer stressed to her that the corporation was there to support her and help her advance.

"I figured that if there were this many people that could see this for me than maybe it was right."

She admitted that she was scared returning to school. All through her elementary and high school years she required some extra help and she didn't know if she could really pull it off.

She began her college career at the Iowa Lakes Community College satellite center in Spencer and after she earned her associate's degree slid into BVU's satellite center. Both are located in the same building and the transition, she said, was a breeze.

She credits the advisors from each of those schools that helped her along in her college path and can't say enough good things about the satellite centers and how convenient they are for those students that can't get to the Storm Lake campus.

"BV has been excellent. I couldn't have done this without those branches. The satellites are excellent."

It was quite nerveracking walking into class for the first time. Her first two classes were health care administration. "That helped get me adjusted in school. I knew something about administration so I knew what they were talking about."

She laughs as she thinks about some of the classes that are required of college students.

"Why did I need to take a class about the stars when all I want to do is take care of people? I guess they want us to have a well-rounded education!"

For some of her college career, her two children were also in college (her son has since graduated from a two-year program and her daughter continues with her studies.) That came in quite handy.

I went to them and asked them how to study." She took some advice from them but also learned along the way.

"At BVU, they want you to succeed. They give you the tools and classes to help you learn to study." She took advantage of those tools often.

She said she was amazed, really, at how many student in her classes were older.

"I'm a firm believer that you can't push your kids to go to college right out of high school. It took me how many years to decide what I wanted to be."

She said her own kids determined their path of study early, but for those who haven't yet discovered their field of passion, college can be difficult.

"I am also a firm believer that even if you have trouble (with studies) in high school, that won't necessarily be the case in college."

Weier first thought of cosmetology as a career. She went to the nursing home in her home town of Sheldon to fix hair, but admitted being around older people at that time in her life scared her.

"I never thought I'd be working in a nursing home," she said.

She began her career as a fill in for the activity department - that hooked her.

"I can't imagine being without these people. It makes me happy to be here helping provide them the kind of life they deserve. I really have a passion for the elderly. I know this is where I need to be. This is where I can do the most in life."

There are so many people she has to thank for helping her through the past five years.

"My family has been great. The volunteers here - without them I couldn't have done this. They have been wonderful. And the staff - they all pulled together to help 'get 'er done.'"

She is excited about completing the five years of hard work. She said she wasn't going to go through ceremonies but her family talked her into it.

She is the first of six kids in her family to receive a four-year degree - health care administration with a sociology minor.

"That's a huge milestone but I never focused on that. I always focused on getting to the end and what would happen next. I'm proud of everyone that saw it in me, to push me. I've never been sure of myself and I still couldn't believe it until I walked across that stage and saw that the diploma is signed."

She won't miss the stress of getting her homework done (and neither will her husband) and is looking forward to doing some of her favorite activities again that she had to put on the wayside to go to class.

"I am excited to start this new chapter. It's finally here."

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