For years, the Hagerstown mother of three and grandmother of five had given evenings and weekends to her work in sales.
“I wanted a better-quality of life. I wanted to be able to plan things on the weekends — birthday parties, barbecues — but I was always working,” she said.
With family-friendliness and job security as priorities, she considered work in the medical field. She didn’t want to do clinical work, but likes working with computers. So Zehringer decided to pursue a career in health information technology.
“Health information will always be around,” she said. “Everybody has a medical record.”
At 49 years old, Zehringer earned an associate of applied science degree in health information technology. She participated Saturday morning in Kaplan University’s spring commencement at North Hagerstown High School.
Zehringer said her three children, all registered nurses, gave her support and encouragement during her studies.
“My phone would ring. I’d say, ‘It’s mom. She’s gonna ask me about math,’” said her son, Nick Combs, 26, of Gaithersburg, Md.
Daughters Sabrina Runyon, 25, and Krystal Tippett, 27, both of Martinsburg, W.Va., helped her study flashcards with medical terminology.
Zehringer’s husband, Ed, said she is proof that people can accomplish their goals and dreams at any age. Zehringer has been employed for three months as an insurance and referral specialist.
“I’m home evenings and weekends, and I can be with my family on beautiful days like today. Tomorrow is biking day,” she said.
W. Christopher Motz, president of the Hagerstown campus of Kaplan University, said the commencement was a celebration of the accomplishments of the graduates after journeys of “loneliness and uncertainty,” and long nights of studying.
There were 243 students in the graduating class, Motz said, and about 150 of them participated in the ceremony. Motz encouraged the graduates to use their knowledge and degrees in a way that would honor them, their families and the university.
“Always remember to smile, never be late, look for the good in any given situation instead of complaining,” he said.
Two members of the graduating class, Steven Black and Sid Stambaugh, gave commencement addresses.
Black, 28, of Greencastle, Pa., said he first enrolled at the university in 2003, when it was known as Hagerstown Business College. He earned an associate degree in business administration and landed a job at a small local finance company. He left there and went to work in sales for an area car dealership, then moved on to several other sales positions with different companies. Each of them, he felt, was a dead end.
“Business was slow. The economy was bad. Sales was too cyclical. I decided to go back to Kaplan and change directions,” Black said.
After an additional year and a half of schooling, during which he made dean’s and president’s lists, Black earned a bachelor’s degree in information technology. He has combined his sales experience with his knowledge of information technology in a job as a business information analyst at Bank of America Merchant Services.
“It’s a big step up,” Black said. “It’s the best job I’ve had so far.”