A mother of seven becomes a nurse, too

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2007

By Lee Bonorden, staff writer

Camala Mueller was No. 45 on the list Riverland Community College registered nursing program graduates and No. 1 in the hearts of her husband and seven children this weekend.

&8220;If she can do it, I think just about anybody can,&8221; remarked teenage daughter, MaryErin.

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A nontraditional student, Mueller was housewife, homemaker and college student all at the same time while she worked to make a dream come true: becoming a nurse.

On Friday, it became official as Riverland&8217;s class of 2007 was honored at commencement ceremonies at Riverside Arena in downtown Austin.

The RN pinning ceremonies &8212; the nurses&8217; own commencement &8212; took place Friday morning for 67 RCC nursing program students.

At night, 285 students accepted degrees, diplomas and certificates of course completion.

A legitimately huge crowd packed into Riverside Arena. Students attended Riverland campuses at Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna.

Mueller and her husband, Joe, moved to Wells from Illinois in 1998, when they came to Minnesota for a discipleship training for the Youth With a Mission ministry.

They have seven children: Matthew, Andrew, MaryErin, Kathleen, JoEllen, Suzanna and Rachel.

Matthew is a college student. The other six children live at home.

Joe works in the business office at the Owatonna Medical Clinic. He is also an emergency medical technician in Wells.

Until deciding to go to college to study to be an RN, Mueller was by her own admission a &8220;professional mom.&8221;

Then, she and her husband had a serious talk.

&8220;It had always been something we had considered for me to do as a career and it just all of a sudden presented itself as the right time now,&8221; she said.

She attended RN classes part-time over the last 3 1/2 years in order to earn her nursing degree.

&8220;I had wonderful support from everyone. My husband and my children and extended family members all made sacrifices too,&8221; she said.

After marriage and the births of all her children, completing college to become an RN ranks &8220;right up there&8221; as one of the most exciting times of her life.

Mueller, who home-schooled her children for several years, exercised patience before following her dream to become a nurse.

Juggling marriage and motherhood with the academic rigors of going to college makes her a role model for other single women.

&8220;I would say to them: Don&8217;t think it is impossible, believe in your dreams and persevere and you&8217;ll make it,&8221; she said.

Her husband, Joe, described his wife as a woman who is &8220;very strong-willed and who is willing to sacrifice other things in her life in order to pursue this.

&8220;She also has a strong faith in God in knowing this was the way,&8221; he said.

Joe said the &8220;tough times&8221; over the past 3 1/2 years were made easier by the couple&8217;s children accepting their mother&8217;s decision to go to college in mid-life.

The at-home children range in age from 7 to 20.

MaryErin, 16 and a sophomore at United South Central High School, spoke for the at-home children.

&8220;At times, it was hard sometimes,&8221; she said. &8220;Then it was kind of cool watching her do all these things and now we will see what is going to happen. She&8217;s going to have a good job and it&8217;s going to be cool,&8221; the daughter said.

Sandi Salyer, a sister-in-law of the graduate&8217;s, attended Friday morning&8217;s RN program pinning ceremony at Frank W. Bridges Theatre on the RCC east Austin campus.

&8220;When she first started, she was still home-schooling and going to school at night,&8221; the sister-in-law said. &8220;I&8217;m very, very proud of her.

&8220;I graduated college when I was 21 and I can&8217;t imagine at this age &8212; I&8217;m 40 &8212; going back to school and now that I have children I can&8217;t really, really imagine going back to school as she did.&8221;

Mueller&8217;s parents, Dale and Muryel Koetz, also traveled from Illinois to see their daughter graduate.

&8220;I feel like I am graduating too,&8221; said the mother. &8220;I&8217;ve been going through this with her all the way.&8221;

&8220;She&8217;s an amazing person,&8221; she said.

And one of 284 graduates that RCC can call its own.