Hard work has reward

Stillwater woman receives honor from MSU program

Metropolitan State University President Sue K. Hammersmith, left, with MSU graduate and School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice outstanding graduate student Rachelle Erickson of Stillwater. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan State)

Metropolitan State University President Sue K. Hammersmith, left, with MSU graduate and School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice outstanding graduate student Rachelle Erickson of Stillwater. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan State)

ST. PAUL — When Rachelle Erickson was legally “emancipated” from her mother as an 11th grader, one might have suspected challenging times ahead. Yet the Stillwater resident has not only survived but thrived.

True, Erickson endured trying circumstances — she occasionally worked three jobs simultaneously — but thanks to fierce determination and commitment, Erickson earned a college degree. And on April 29 she took the next step, attaining her graduate degree from Metropolitan State University’s School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (SLC). Moreover, Erickson was selected SLC spring semester outstanding graduate student.

“It’s a huge deal” to receive her graduate degree, said the 26-year-old Erickson. “My experience made me stronger and more determined. It made me realize if you want anything, you have to do it on your own.”

A Metropolitan State professor commended Erickson’s talent and professionalism. Meanwhile, her advisor praised Erickson’s academic excellence — she maintained a 4.0 GPA — inherent curiosity, conscientiousness and excellent writing skills.

The Vietnamese-American is a full-time corrections officer at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights and a part-time officer at the Ramsey County Jail. Erickson also serves as a Stillwater Police Department reserve officer. She previously worked at the MCF Lino Lakes and Stillwater facilities.

Emancipating from one or both of your parents is rare. Because of her mother’s instability, a court order granted Erickson the status of adulthood at age 17 because Erickson demonstrated the ability to financially support herself.

That set the stage for her higher education journey. She won several scholarships while attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), where she received a psychology degree at age 20 and graduated magna cum laude in 2007.

While attending UMD and Metropolitan State, Erickson was active in community service. She volunteered at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, participated in Minnesota’s Walk for MS and contributed to a memorial dinner that paid tribute to fallen U.S. Marines.

Future plans for Erickson include completing an accelerated law enforcement certificate program at Metropolitan State and then passing a test to serve as a licensed peace officer in Minnesota. Eventually, she hopes to work on domestic violence and child-abuse neglect cases.

Metropolitan State University, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, is America’s premier university for lifelong learning, providing unsurpassed, competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels while maintaining affordability.

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