by Jim Boyle
If you have ever thought about just giving up and letting life run you over, think twice. Better yet, talk with Kari Olson.
This single mother of five managed to balance a full-time, 65-hour-a-week home day-care operation with 15 children, plus two part-time jobs and her schooling at the Minnesota School of Business in Elk River.
She graduated from the school with honors on June 23 at the Fountains of Ramsey. Her final GPA was 3.99.
“I’m most proud that I finished,” Olson told the Star News. “There were times I felt spread so thin.”
As she teetered between feelings of anguish and then pure bliss when she would make the dean’s list, she kept her eye on the prize. She never second-guessed not having a moment to herself as she juggled school, her day care and her budding career as a massage therapist.
Each time she made the dean’s list, she and her five kids — Brooklyn, Makenna, Alexis, Jayden and Dylan — piled into the family car and went out to Applebee’s in Elk River or somewhere else to celebrate.
“I wanted them to know this was a priority in my life,” she said.
She realizes her story has the potential to inspire others, so despite her fear of public speaking, she agreed to speak at graduation.
“If I can touch one person and get them to never give up and to keep going when life is attempting to run them over, it will be worth it,” she reasoned.
After two failed marriages and 13 years of at-home day care, Olson said it was time for a change. She had thoughts of a career as a medical assistant when the magic of massage therapy touched her heart and her path in school.
It was her youngest daughter, Brooklyn, who had CranioSacral Therapy (CST) to alleviate discomfort brought on by allergies and vaccines. The therapy, a gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body, transformed this tiny little baby from a tense and uncomfortable state to a limp and relaxed state — as if she were a wet noodle.
“It was the only thing that helped her,” Olson said.
Up to that point, Olson had a dismal view of massage therapy. She saw it as fluff and buff — something for relaxation purposes only. Her passion had been the medical side of the equation — the analytical side, one rooted in the sciences.
“I didn’t know the healing side of (massage therapy),” she said. “It touched my heart.”
Olson decided to enroll in school for massage therapy and learn everything she could about essential oils and natural health remedies.
“I needed a change of career and wanted to learn more about natural health care so that I could help my daughter and other people live healthier lives,” Olson explained.
So with the help of two employees, family and friends, Olson started school while still running her at-home day care. They helped keep her business up and running, and allowed her to tackle the schooling and add two part-time jobs, including one at The Little Rejuvenation Station in downtown Elk River, where she continues to work.
“The hardest part was being able to work enough hours to make ends meet and still find time to study,” Olson said. “I couldn’t have done it without friends and family.”
She found her best time to study was at 4:30 in the morning when all was quiet on the home front.
Life has slowed some since graduation, but even if it speeds back up Olson won’t let it run her over.
“I want to set a good example for my kids,” she said.
Local MSB graduates
*Heather L. Crego, Zimmerman, Associate of Applied Science in massage therapy
Corinne M. Danielson, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in business administration
Jessica D. Gross, Zimmerman, Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology
*Rena Hales, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice
Shawn D. Kaegbein, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in medical administrative assistant
**Patrick Kain, Otsego, Associate of Applied Science in business administration
Ashley Karna, Rogers, Associate of Applied Science in medical assisting
*Cortney Lieberg, Zimmerman, Associate of Applied Science in business administration
Jenessa L. Olesen, Elk River, diploma in medical administrative assistant
Lynsey A. Sahli, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in business administration
Kayli Sparks, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in medical assistant
**Kathy Stelten, Zimmerman, post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal
Amber L. Weiers, Zimmerman, Associate of Applied Science in medical assisting
*Amanda Zettergren, Elk River, Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice
*Indicates High Honors
**Indicates Highest Honors (4.0)