Erickson Merkel Foundation: Tell us a little bit about your family and friends growing up, and any positive effect that they had on your formative years.

Courtney Kemmet: My family was and still are very close. My grandparents lived on a farm just three miles from where I grew up so I spent a lot of my childhood years with them. My grandma was a seamstress so I spent many hours in her sewing room learning all of her tricks. My grandpa was a farmer his entire life but also enjoyed shooting trap. He encouraged me to join him in his hobbies and got me involved in our local shooting club. Many of my friends parents were my parents friends so when we got together it was usually with the entire family which was great. This taught me the importance of working hard but also making time for friends and family.

 

EMF: When you were going through elementary, middle or high school, did you have a clear idea on what you wanted to do when you grew up?

CK: I was studious all throughout school and never caused trouble in class, so I always made a connection with my teachers. I tossed around a few other ideas in high school but always kept coming back to being an elementary teacher. I grew up going to daycare and always loved helping my daycare provider with the younger kids so that really sparked my interest in helping children.

 

EMF: When was it that you realized that only you could be responsible for your future, and in what ways did you take control of your life after?

CK: I cannot think of a specific time in which I knew I was responsible for my future. My parents raised me to take responsibility for my decisions and my actions, so I believe I have always known only I could be responsible for my future. In high school I know I started looking around at colleges and figured out the best courses to take to prepare me for the future. I took agriculture classes often because they interested me, but I also had a course track to get a scholarship all through college.

 

EMF: Were there any people you looked up to when you were younger, and why?

CK: Growing up I looked up to my daycare provider, Karen Mittleider. I spent many hours, days, and years at her house. I always appreciated her happy attitude and love for the children in her care. She encouraged me to be my best and always had a welcoming smile. Her love for children really impacted me and my choices growing up. I still stay in contact with her and her husband now they are more like family to me.

 

EMF: Do you have any mentors now? If so, can you tell me about them and what they mean to you?

CK: I do not have one specific mentor now, but I am encouraged by many of my professors and their love for learning and teaching young students. They teach me to constantly look for new ideas on how to teach students. If I as a teacher am not learning and having fun neither will my students.

 

EMF: Are there any people living or dead who you draw inspiration from?

CK: I draw inspiration from one of my friends, Hannah Zimmerman. She is also a future elementary teacher and we became great friends through class. She always has a positive attitude and never has a bad thing to say about others. She keeps me motivated and we always enjoy a laugh together.

 

EMF: Are there any causes that you feel strongly about, that you would like to give back to someday, or that you’ve been able to help out so far?

CK: I have a heart condition called Marfan Syndrome. They have a foundation that raises money to find a cure for this disease. Eventually I would like to have the income to be able to give back to this foundation.

 

EMF: When did you get your first job, where was it, and what prompted you to get it?

CK: I started babysitting when I was of a proper age to do so, but my first paycheck job was at the local Dairy Queen. I choose to work there because before I had my license my mom could easily drop me off there. I thought it would be interesting to make ice cream creations for others.

 

EMF: What keeps you motivated through long weeks of work and study?

CK: My motivation to get through a long week of work and studying is the weekend. I usually try to work on homework as much as possible during the week, so I have the weekend to myself. My current job at a daycare is not open during the weekends, so I have that time to myself. In my free time I either make the long trek home to see family or do outdoor activities with friends around Fargo.

 

EMF: What are your personal and professional goals?

CK: My personal goals include getting married and having a big family. My professional goal now is to become an elementary teacher in North Dakota. I hope to use all I have learned in college to have a classroom that all students feel at home in.

 

EMF: Why do you think it’s important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances?

CK: What I believe is most important for undergraduates to understand is to look for scholarships to apply for. Many students do not look and apply for any scholarships and then have huge amounts of debt after college. I have not had to spend a lot out of my own pocket simply because I look for scholarships that apply to me. I work hard to keep my grades up in order to maintain my scholarships. I also worked two jobs most of college to help pay for other expenses that come with college. I believe grades and school should come before work, so if undergraduates do plan on having a job they need to find one that gives them time to do homework and relax as well.

 

EMF: Are you planning on any further academic pursuits after completing your current degree?

CK: After being an elementary teacher for a few years and settling down, I hope to get my Master’s Degree to become a principal in North Dakota.

 

EMF: After dedicating yourself to work and study, what do you do to wind down?

CK: Other than spending time with friends and family I have a few other hobbies to wind down. I enjoy reading and watching a few series on Netflix. I also enjoy playing my guitar for an escape from reality.