Karen Vermillion

Karen Vermillion

Computer Purchasing and Services Coordinator

Education is important to Karen Vermillion. Learning is even more important. It took her a while to learn how important it is to have an education. A hard lesson it was, but one that in the end she learned well and has passed on to her children.

Karen dropped out of school to marry at age fifteen. Fifteen years later, with four children and no husband, life as a stay-at-home mom on public assistance was grim. She promised herself she would go back to school when her youngest reached 1st grade. So Karen set her jaw and determined to change her life along with those of her kids. Living in Rainier at the time, she spent the next two years working on an Associate in Technical Arts degree in electronics technology from South Puget Sound Community College.

During that time Karen discovered a lot about her capacity to learn, to realize a dream, to invest in the future. Her kids learned a lot, too -- like how to cook and clean and do chores so their mother could study. It was rugged (at one point, Karen says, "they almost divorced me!") but she persevered and received the A.T.A degree in 1992.

Then Karen learned that electronic repair was not interesting or challenging enough for her, so she invested two-plus more years in a second A.T.A. degree, this one in computer maintenance from Clover Park Technical College. She joined PLU as our Computer Purchasing & Services Coordinator in 2003.

What was Karen's motivation for these challenging efforts to achieve economic independence? When she realized the dead end she was facing, and the likelihood that she was setting her kids up for another generation of the same, she decided to break the welfare cycle. "My kids will succeed, no matter what I have to sacrifice," she says. And she's pretty much reached that goal with one son a carpentry contractor, another an electrician, and a daughter holding a B.A. in psychology.

Now Karen lives within a short walk of campus and has by all measures realized her long-term goals. She has succeeded, in terms of both her own independence and liberating her children from the cycle of dependency. Education was the tool and independence for herself and her children was the accomplishment. But even now her parenting and use of education as a vehicle for self-improvement continues with an eight-year sponsorship of a child in Egypt through Child Reach.

Seems Karen has learned her lesson. Learned it very well, indeed.

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