SWIC alum goes from high school dropout to hopeful doctorate holder

Michael Lemp

For SWIC alum Michael Lemp of Pontoon Beach, economic reality, a lack of support for education in his working-class family and falling in with a bad crowd led him to drop out of school at 16 in the 1990s.


That choice led to another reality. “As a high school dropout, I realized I had very few options in life. I felt limited bagging groceries and working on horseradish farms. I knew I wanted something more,” he said.


He turned to then Belleville Area College’s Adult Basic Education department for help. His first step was to earn his GED certificate, which he did, in 1993.


Lemp used the confidence and skills he gained through the GED program to tackle his next goal – an Associate in Arts degree in psychology in 1999. “More than earning a GED, you learn to dream and succeed. The program made me realize that the ability to succeed is a simple choice, which is put into action by determination,” he said.


Determined he now was. After completing his AA degree and working in emergency room and ambulance settings, he enrolled in and completed the EMTP Emergency Medical Technician program in 2002 to help him work more hands-on with patients. “The Paramedic program at SWIC was the most highly regarded in the St. Louis region. Between my previous experience at SWIC and the reputation of the Paramedic program, the choice was obvious,” he said.


That wasn’t all though. A Nursing Education degree was in his sights as his desire to provide a higher level of patient care again crept into his thoughts. He reached that goal in 2010 when he received his Associate in Applied Science degree in nursing education. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing over the course of the next three years. Within the next year, he hopes to enroll in a doctor of nursing practice program.


He now uses the skills he learned to provide care to patients as a PRN Admission Nurse for Hospice of Southern Illinois and as a nurse practitioner for Livewell Centers, a chiropractic-run holistic health center in Belleville.


His ultimate goal, however, is to learn how best to integrate research and evidence-based practice into everyday practice. “Research integration is paramount to providing the best patient care. More important to me than the ‘dream job,’ the DNP is important to me in regards of dream practice. I don’t want to offer great care. I want to provide the best care.”


The father of five says he’d like to see a National Electronic Health Record, something he covered as a master’s project. He also notes he’d love to someday teach and share the love of education he garnered from the folks who helped him earn his GED and maybe one day return to SWIC to teach future nurses. “The great teachers at SWIC have given me so much. I would love to be able to pass that on to the next generation of nurses.”


His advice to the next generations of students – his own five children – is simple: “My best advice to them is that learning is the key to freedom. Be it financial, political or philosophical, freedom can only be obtained through critical evaluation. To be critical, one must be educated and have the ability to challenge the beliefs of oneself and others.”

From Blue Storm to Red Sox

Head Baseball Coach Neil Fiala, left, meets up with former Blue Storm baseball player Tom Layne before a recent St. Louis Cardinals game. Layne was in town pitching for the Boston Red Sox.

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