by Cori Hilsgen
Amber Wiese isn’t your average college graduate, but she recently graduated from St. Cloud State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Wiese took a different path than most college students. She started college nine months after her family moved into low-income housing. It took her seven years to complete her degree while caring for her three children, one of whom was born premature.
Wiese’s goal was to get an education and move out of low-income housing. She earned her degree while caring for her three children. Her third child was born just before she was accepted into the social-work program.
Fun Facts about Wiese :
Wiese has been an active member of the Student Social Work Association, including serving as vice president for a semester. She was also on the Student Advisory Council and that led to her serving on the planning committee for Stearns County Project Homeless Connect.
Honors or awards received:
Wiese is a Title IV-E Child Welfare scholar, a program which strengthens the preparation of social workers intending to work in public child welfare agencies. Because of that program, she made a commitment to try to work at least two years in child welfare.
Wiese also recently received the Excellence in Leadership Award from SCSU, for her leadership roles in the St. Cloud and St. Joseph areas and on the SCSU campus. She was one of 25 of 1,200 students recognized with this award.
Favorite leisure activity:
Going to the beach for a day with her children.
Christian, Spirit 92.9
Favorite thing she likes to help other people do:
“I like to help people find their self-worth, to believe in themselves,” Wiese said.
“Together we have it all.” -Anonymous
One of the hardest obstacles she has had to overcome in college:
Wiese said it was a struggle balancing the different roles of being a single mother and a college student and maintaining a sustainable life for her children.
“There were many times I had no choice but to not work (a job) in order to complete my college course work and still be there for my kids,” she said.
Wiese didn’t want her children in childcare morning and night and said she’d either go to college a semester or work. There were evenings when she would sacrifice her time with her children to complete her school work on time or sit with her laptop on the couch next to them to make it feel like she was giving them attention.
“It’s been hard but manageable to be a single parent and student at the same time, and I often included my kids in all my educational activities and events,” Wiese said. “It’s been very important for my kids to still be a part of the community. Not having the financial stability from going to college was a barrier, but I always made sure they could be in sports and camps and to be included in mainstream society.”
Favorite technology device:
Something she/he would change if they could:
“That all children living in low income or poverty will be recognized as important key-holders for the future, and communities need to invest in them more for the positives they can bring than to see the stereotypes of what their lives may turn into because of low income and poverty,” Wiese said. “They are worth more than the stereotypes if people believe and invest in them.”
What she would like to be doing five years from now:
“I would enjoy being elected to city council and having my master’s degree in social work,” Wiese said. “And if the weather doesn’t warm up soon, maybe move to a warmer state?”
The thing she likes best about St. Joseph:
“I really like how all three churches work together for its citizens,” she said. “The community is close (and) we have great resources like the community meal and Lunch and Learn program. The community of St. Joe helps one another when families are in need. St. Joe has a great outlook in the future with its current supporters.”
Non-traditional college student Amber Wiese was one of 25 of 1,200 students who was recognized with an Excellence in Leadership Award.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.