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Sgt. Michelle Hercules: Strength and beauty

She doesn't look nearly as tired as she must be.

Sergeant Michelle Hercules works the night shift for the Miami University Police Department so she can finish her master's degree in political science during the day.

The Hamilton native's days start at 9:30 p.m. when she gets to work. On Mondays and Wednesdays, when she gets off at 7:30 a.m., she has time for a nap before coming back to campus and going to her 1:15 class. But, on Tuesdays and Thursdays when she gets off at 7:30 a.m., she has only about an hour to grab a cup of coffee before her 8:30.

"I've sacrificed a lot of sleep this semester," she said, chuckling.

On top of all that, until three weeks ago, Hercules worked one or two night shifts a week at a Butler County jail. And she is always trying to do overtime because she is, after all, paying for school.

Hercules also singlehandedly teaches the self-defense courses for MUPD. She hopes to write a book on self-defense some day, a topic she is very passionate about.

"I don't think anybody should feel like they can't defend themselves just because someone may be bigger than them," Hercules said.

Shortly before starting her master's program, Hercules was promoted to detective. She has been promoted to sergeant in the past year.

"There's been times that I feel like I can't, I'm just so tired, but then someone says, 'Yes you can.'"

Hercules said that her officemate, Sergeant Scott Smith, is often that person.

"He's always there to help me out. He's been a great support," Hercules said. "But so has my captain, my chief. I can't think of anyone who hasn't been supportive."

Smith said Hercules gives him more credit than he deserves.

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"All I do is motivate her," Smith said.

Smith said he is an "amateur photographer," and he gifted Hercules two photographs that he took that reminded him of her. He titled them "Strength" and "Beauty." They now hang in their shared office.

"Strength" is a close-up of a pillar at the Formal Gardens. The large stones are in focus and the soft green and daylight behind them are fuzzy. "Beauty" is the front lawn of Lewis Place. Pink flowers at the base of a gnarled tree are in full bloom.

"She is a remarkable lady," Smith said. "Even to her fellow law enforcement, she is very impressive."

Hercules cites time management and determination as the keys to her success this past year and a half, working full time and going to school full time.

Hercules said that her favorite professor is her public budgeting professor, professor Anna Erwin.

"I'm really interested to see what her next step will be. She could be a great leader and a changemaker," Erwin said of Hercules. "She has the capacity to grow leaps and bounds and make more of a positive impact on her community."

And Hercules isn't planning on leaving Oxford anytime soon.

"For now, I'm going to stay here," she said. "But first I'm going to rest."

Hercules has a cyst on her pancreas that she is getting removed after graduation. After the surgery, she'll have three months off, during which she plans to rest and build a playroom for her two grandchildren, Mila and Chance.

"I'm looking forward to being 'Meme' full time," she said. "Family is very important to me."

Hercules said her quickly approaching graduation doesn't seem real. She can't believe that she really did it.

"It's been an emotional, physical and mental roller coaster ride," Hercules said. "But it's now coming to a halt. In two weeks I'll be a graduate."