A U.S. Army nurse who grew up in 33 foster homes after her father went to jail and her mother relinquished parental rights had the statistics stacked against her; however, she was determined to live differently.
Today, Second Lt. Stephanie Hergesheimer’s life story is an inspiration for many.
“[Women] go through a lot, the world looks at us in a certain light,” Stephanie, 30, from Vernon, Connecticut, said in an interview with the U.S. Army.
“Just because the world wants to put you in a square doesn’t mean you have to be a square. You can be a diamond. You can do whatever you want,” she said.
Growing up, Stephanie found comfort and a way to escape between the pages of her school books. The school was her refuge, she said, a “safe zone” where she need not worry about anything that was going on in her life.
“That’s where I could just focus on being a student and what I needed to get done. I could read and that would put me in a whole different world. I never had to worry about what was going on around me,” she said.
An excellent student, Stephanie graduated high school with a full college scholarship, the U.S. Army reported. But she didn’t find the sense of purpose she was hungry for in the first few months of her college degree.
“I was looking for purpose and direction to make a difference in the world,” she said.
In 2010, Stephanie dropped out and enlisted in the Army. With a desire to help others and with previous experience as a lifeguard, Stephanie gravitated toward a role in health care. She ended up training as a combat medic.
Stephanie worked as an Emergency Room medic in South Korea before deploying with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade to Afghanistan.
After returning home in 2014, she discovered that she was pregnant. Stephanie prepared for life as a single mother while simultaneously cementing her resolve to keep doing better and forging ahead in her life.
According to the U.S. Army website, Stephanie moved to Georgia with her baby daughter, finished her bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology, and applied to the Army Medical Department’s Enlisted Commissioning Program.
Eventually, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
At the time of writing, Stephanie is married and serving as a second lieutenant.
The mom of a 6-year-old daughter now works in the inpatient ward at the only American level III trauma center overseas, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. With the benefit of both time and distance to aid her reflections, Stephanie ventured that her daughter is her biggest driving force to keep achieving. But so, she said, are the naysayers.
“Growing up, I was told I wouldn’t make it and I wouldn’t succeed, just from my past,” she said. “That definitely motivated me to prove them wrong.
“Then having a little daughter, having those little eyes look up at me and tell me, ‘You’re my hero,’ pushes me to do more and be better.”
Across the United States, only around 50 percent of youths raised in the foster care system complete high school, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. Fewer than 3 percent go on to graduate from a 4-year college degree.
Stephanie did not want to be limited by such disheartening statistics. As an anomaly, she hopes to inspire other young girls stifled by their circumstances to persevere despite hardship.
“To other little girls that are growing up in situations similar to mine, or in any situation, you don’t have to be looked down upon,” Stephanie told the U.S. Army.
“[N]o matter what you’re going through in life, no matter what they’re throwing at you, you can do it; you’re not weaker than anybody else, you’re just as strong,” she said.
Watch the video below:
(Courtesy of William Beach/DVIDSHUB)
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