Tag Archives: education

Diverse Scholars Initiative Forum: A Diverse Meeting of the Minds

I had the privilege of attending the 2016 United Health Diverse Scholars Initiative Forum a few weeks ago. I was in a room with 100 of the best and the brightest upcoming health professionals in the country. The whole forum buzzed with passion and innovative ideas. The multi-cultural event had attendees representing nine different non-profit or civic organizations focused on minority groups. Everyone in attendance was working or hoped to work in the healthcare field. The wide variety of backgrounds, cultural representation, and world experiences led to amazingly critical and thoughtful discussions. The whole experience was a truly collaborative meeting of the minds.

So, what was I doing there?

I am a white female and acknowledge the privilege that has inherently come with that. I consider myself middle-class from a middle-class background. However, this year the Diverse Scholars Initiative Forum included a new group of attendees: military spouses. In this capacity I am a minority, an anomaly even. Only a small group of Americans hold the distinct honor, and bare the hardships of being a military spouse.

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The National Military Family Association (NMFA) awarded me a scholarship to assist with the financial burden of continuing education and the clinical supervision required for my profession as a clinical social worker. It was because of NMFA’s support for military spouses that I had the pleasure of attending the United Health Diverse Scholars Initiative Forum.

Throughout the Forum there was a strong focus on professional networking, branding, and advocacy. We heard from experienced members of the healthcare industry, participated in interactive panel discussions with experts, and had the opportunity to converse with members of congress on Capitol Hill. The chance to ask Congressmen and Senators questions about healthcare policy, in an open environment, was an invaluable experience.

During every aspect of the Forum we were engaged in meaningful conversations about the future of our country’s health. The important issues that healthcare professionals face were entrenched in everything. From policy to ethics, to standards of care; we tried to consider the “big stuff.” Being surrounded by such a diverse and brilliant crowd was nothing short of inspirational.

I left this year’s Diverse Scholars Initiative Forum feeling like I had taken a deep breath of fresh air. It left me feeling like a change is not only possible, but necessary. I am more sure than ever that this generation’s critical minds are up for the challenge.

Posted by Katie J. Haynes, MSW, LCSWA, military spouse and NMFA Scholarship Recipient 

Passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to a Military Spouse: Yes or No?

For me, making the decision to use my husband’s Post-9/11 GI Bill, rather than save it for our kids, or for my husband when he gets out of the military, was difficult. The decision wasn’t hard for my husband, though. He has told me time and again that he wants me to use it. But it’s been difficult for me.

I am not the one who raised her right hand, and swore an oath to our nation. I am not the one who works countless hours, and follows every order, even when that order means missing out on holidays and graduations and plans with the family. I am not the one who deployed, or is ready and waiting for the next time someone needs to put their life on the line for Uncle Sam.

Not me.

I’m just the spouse. I am his cheerleader. I am proud to support him and do what I need to do to keep our home happy and healthy so he can do his job. I am doing everything I can to pitch in for our family, and that includes working, and hustling, and yes, going back to college.

My degree program is expensive. Very expensive. And climbing a career ladder as a military spouse isn’t easy.

Sometimes I wonder if spending this benefit on me is a worthwhile investment. I am not sure we’ll be in this area long enough for me to finish this degree program, let alone use it to it’s fullest potential. I am not sure I am going to be able to reach MY fullest potential as long as my spouse is active duty.

I’ve been struggling with this icky, dirty, rotten feeling, and wondering if my family made the right decision to invest in me, and this degree, right now.

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I shared these concerns with a friend, and fellow military spouse, who reassured me that I am not alone. She reminded me that degrees do not have expiration dates; if now is the right time for me to be working towards a degree, then I should do it. Even if we have a PCS looming, or I am unsure of what the future holds. I can get that degree, and hang it on my wall, and stick it on my resume, and it will be there for me when I need it.

She reminded me that struggling with guilt is normal, especially for a woman who is also a mom, like me. We are used to giving our kids the last scoop of ice cream and putting our needs to the side to care for them. So using a benefit for myself that could be passed to them is tough for me.

But, I can still use my degree to help them. Getting this degree will raise my earning potential, and impact my family’s budget. By the time my kids are ready to go to college, I could be earning much more money, and have an easier time helping pay their tuition. Before they are ready to go to college, our family will have more money to invest in sports and activities and tutors, so my kids will be more competitive when it comes to earning a college scholarship.

I need to remember that my husband and I are a team. We are in this together, and he believes I am a worthwhile investment. I need to believe in myself, as well. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has the potential to make a real difference for my family NOW. He is a “lifer,” and won’t be out of the military for another 10-15 years (knock on wood). By then, he won’t need the benefit. But I need it now, and our family needs my employment income now.

Lastly, my friend reminded me that many military spouses are struggling with employment issues. Many have put themselves, their educations, and their careers on the back burner. They’ve given up…and I don’t blame them at all. It’s hard to be ready and willing to work, and have the education and experience you need, and STILL hit a brick wall. Getting this degree will help me become more employable. It will make me more competitive. I may still struggle to find a job, and military life may still present it’s own challenges, but it’s always better to make sure there are multiple doors (and windows!) open to me. This degree will unlock them all.

I have an opportunity that has been lovingly given to me by my husband. He earned the right to choose where that benefit was best spent. He has chosen to invest in my education, and our family’s future. The best thing I can do for all of us is to continue to work my tail off, keep my head up, and know I am doing my part to help my family in the long run.

Are you a military spouse using the Post-9/11 GI Bill? How did you decide it was right for your family?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Pursuing a Career in Mental Health? You’re Going to Want to Know About This…

Laura Merandi, like many other military spouses, has struggled to start a career. She has faced multiple PCS moves–4 so far in her 9½ year marriage–three deployments, and several separations due to trainings. When she met her husband, Paul, she had been accepted to a top-tier graduate school in New York to get her master’s degree in social work. Her plans were detoured as a result, but she was happy to join Paul as he navigated through his career in the military. “He is the love of my life,” she shared, “of course I put everything on hold for him, for our future family. To me, there was no question, no hesitation.”

The first few years of marriage brought twin girls into their lives. With the moving, and the demands of parenting young children, her dreams of becoming a social worker had to go on the back burner for a while.

“I was so caught up in the day-to-day of caring for my twin girls, and preparing for changes that military life would bring, I just stopped thinking about my own career,” Laura explained.

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Once her girls were school-aged, Laura decided to reignite her dream of becoming a social worker. But going to that ivy-league school she was once accepted to was no longer an option. Nothing but an online or hybrid program would work for her anymore. “When I was not married to the military, I could choose colleges that were brick-and-mortar. This was not the case now. I needed to rely on programs that were available online, or if needed, programs that had some limited time on campus, but with the bulk of my time spent doing my work remotely.”

This was the first of many hurdles for Laura.

First, she struggled to find an accredited school online. There were few options online for schools with counseling or social work. So Laura decided to enroll in an online school in counseling with the right accreditation… as far as she could tell.

Laura, like many other military spouses, took on her education with the help of loans, scholarships, and grants. She excelled in her coursework, earning a 4.0 GPA during her two year master’s degree program. “I was excited,” she recalled. “I loved my coursework and found that I could design the work around my schedule and anything the military threw our way.”

Her happiness was short-lived, however, when she couldn’t t find supervision in order to get licensed. She was moving again.

And that wasn’t all.

It turned out the school she attended was regionally accredited, but not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which was now a requirement to work with many insurance panels. Particularly those who work with military service members, veterans and their families.

I was devastated. I worked so hard, raising a family, supporting my husband, and getting through a demanding program. It felt like all the doors were slammed shut on me. I couldn’t find an internship and supervisor because we kept moving and my program didn’t have the right accreditation. I couldn’t even think of getting licensed under those circumstances. Then, even if I tried to take courses in an accredited program, it was cost-prohibitive. I wanted to give up. My dream of supporting the mental health needs of our military community pretty much went up in smoke.

Just when Laura was going to give up, she found the support and friendship of other military spouses in an informal network online.

“The Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians (MHBHC) social media group supported me through it.” Laura said. “I received advice from other spouses who were going through similar circumstances and had come out on the other side.

Using this network, Laura found out she could use her husband’s Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and pay for courses to complete my studies in a CACREP accredited program. But she still struggled to find a supervisor. When she finally did, it was costly, and took her much longer to reach her goals than she hoped.

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Today, Laura is searching for jobs that don’t have an issue with the moves associated with being a military family. She’s also working on her second professional license.

“Military spouses should not have to jump through so many hoops to be able to help our own community,” she shared. “What is most frustrating is that we have a nationwide shortage of providers. Why is it so hard for us to get our careers going?”

This is a question echoed by many military spouses whose career choices require them to be licensed. They face unending barriers, in some cases, just to be able to work and support their families and their community.

If we really want to be able to effect change and mitigate the mental health crisis in our communities, we need to support those who are working hard to do just that. This is why the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, a joint effort spearheaded by the National Military Family Association, in partnership with Give an Hour, is so timely and important.

With support through military spouses’ entire journey, from finding the right educational program, to helping with supervision and licensure, and assistance finding employment, spouses will be able to break existing barriers and complete a career that is meaningful to them. These careers are so helpful to our military community. It is our hope that with the right support, spouses, like Laura, will be able to join the mental health workforce and provide services to those who need it most.

If you are a military spouse pursuing an education or career in the mental health field, join the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network and set yourself up for success in reaching those goals.

ingridPosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Pipeline

6 Awesome Resources Job-Searching Military Spouses Need to Know About

A few short months before our wedding, my fiancé and I packed up and headed 1,236 miles from Kansas to Northern Virginia. As a Midwest girl, I was a fish out of water in the strong currents of the east coast. I quit my first real job and moved to a city with endless possibilities…or so I thought. Like so many others, I updated my resume and began job searching. Hitting the submit button on the online job application became my worst enemy; it was like I was sending my resume down a black hole… if only I knew then what I know now.

What do I know now, you ask? I know there are wonderful resources out there for military spouses pursuing careers, and not just careers, but portable careers. Before you start sending your resume out to the black hole of the internet, consider these available resources to help your job hunt.

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America’s Career Force

  • It’s mission: Assist career minded military spouses with portable remote careers that will follow them wherever the military takes them.
  • Does it work? As a connection between companies and the global military spouse network, America’s Career Force recently worked with a Fortune 500 company and placed a military spouse with them. The company was so excited to have her on their team and didn’t realize the struggles military spouses face, they’ve since started a military spouse hiring initiative to support military spouses further.
  • What else: CEO and Founder Leigh Searl explains, “I recently moved to Germany and the second military spouse I met said to me, ‘I have a master’s degree and there just aren’t jobs for me here. I don’t want to work as a clerk somewhere, I want to be able to use my education.’ This is exactly why I started America’s Career Force – to help professional military spouses find meaningful employment alongside their active duty service member. Remote careers are the solution to bridging the spouse unemployment gap.”

Flex Jobs

  • It’s mission: FlexJobs provides an innovative, professional job service to help you find the best flexible jobs available, safely and easily. Every job is hand-screened and legitimate. Guaranteed.
  • Does it work? Military spouse, Angie Dahlstrom, was looking for part-time employment while stationed in Korea with her family and found the perfect fit with Flex Jobs. Angie says, “I find the FlexJobs site user-friendly. I appreciated the email alerts, resume and interview support, as well as the awesome job hunter resource options available. The fact that FlexJobs offers global, remote positions was a huge plus for me!”
  • What else: FlexJobs is a partner of NMFA and offers military spouse’s subscriptions at a discounted rate. Register with NMFA for more details on this offer.

Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program

  • It’s mission: A nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
  • Does it work? To date, more than 28,000 veterans and military spouses have obtained jobs through Hiring Our Heroes events. More than 2,000 companies of all sizes have committed to hire 710,000 veterans and military spouses as part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign. Of those commitments, there have been more than 505,000 confirmed hires.
  • What else: Digital resources include distinct resume builders for veterans and transitioning service members, as well as military spouses; a jobs portal that allows veterans and service members to search for employment opportunities in America’s fastest growing job markets and industries; a 24/7 virtual career fair platform; an interactive employer best practices site; and a virtual mentorship program that connects veteran and spouse protégés with experienced mentors.

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Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN)

  • It’s mission: MSCCN works with spouses, caregivers, and dependents to get them employment-ready, and help them find and secure employment opportunities aligned with their experiences and goals.
  • Does it work?  In 2015, Corporate America Supports You (CASY) & MSCCN reported 7,045 (including 2,919 National Guard) hires; in 2016, CASY & MSCCN have reported 1,798 (including 786 National Guard) hires to date.
  • What else: MSCCN employment specialists, in concert with a training department, provide resume, personal branding, and interview assistance, assist applicants with the job search, and mentor applicants throughout the employment process.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP)

  • It’s mission: The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a career partnership connecting military spouses with more than 300 employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses. MSEP is part of the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program that offers comprehensive information, tools and resources to support military spouse career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections.
  • Does it work? More than 300 MSEP employers have hired more than 90,000 military spouses.
  • What else? MSEP is a solution to assist spouses in finding and maintaining employment to achieve their career goals, despite the challenges of frequent relocation. Military spouses can find jobs and career opportunities by logging in to the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal.

ServingTalent

  • It’s mission: ServingTalent actively finds employment for professional military spouses.
  • Does it work? It’s built strong relationships with a number of Fortune 500 and smaller firms who are really excited about working with them, and who have been simply speechless at the level of experience and education the candidates possess.
  • What else: ServingTalent President Maggie Varona, explains, “Our ultimate goal is to end the staggeringly high levels of military spouse unemployment and underemployment by building relationships with employers who understand the value we can bring to their organizations. Thanks to 21st century technology and changing employer attitudes, we can now envision an economy in which military spouses no longer have to give up on their professional ambitions simply because they fell in love with someone in the military.”

Are you a military spouse who’s had success with job searching? What job search resources have worked for you?

allie-jPosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

17 Ways to Celebrate the Month of the Military Child!

When we think of colors that might represent military kids, we usually think of the colors like red, white and blue…maybe throw in a little green camo for contrast, right?

However, the color that best represents the life of the military child is PURPLE!  Why the color purple? It’s the color that’s an intricate part of celebrating the month of April – the Month of the Military Child.

In 1986, April was designated Month of the Military Child by Casper Weinberger to recognize and thank children from military families for the sacrifices they make living the military lifestyle. Purple Up is the campaign that propels activities throughout the Month of the Military Child to honor, acknowledge, and support military connected kids in our schools and communities.

A military connected kid is a child or adolescent with a close family member serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, and any status, Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard. Military connected youth face unique circumstances living the military lifestyle, which can be challenging, or opportunities for growth.

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Celebrating our little warriors doesn’t just happen in our schools. As parents and educators, we need to put a little ingenuity and elbow grease behind a few strategies and activities. As parents, we need to solicit support from principals, teachers and PTO/PTA groups to help bring awareness to our little warriors and their struggles. It’s an easy sell, and the positive attitude you’ll bring to school will last long after you’ve moved, hopefully keeping the tradition going.

The Month of Military Child is celebrated in hundreds of schools across the country and overseas. Bring your child’s school into the know and create a visual sea of purple! Help bring awareness to the unique life we live to teachers, principals, and their peers.

Below are 17 fantastic ways to show support in your school for the military families in your elementary school community. They’re low cost, practical, and creative ways to celebrate in the classroom, hallways and in lunchroom at your school.

  1. Kick off the Month of the Military Child with a breakfast, or lunch for Military Connected Youth in the school. Include their parents or other family members associated with the military. Don’t forget to invite staff who were once military kids, too, or who may have a close family member serving our country.
  2. Dress-up throughout the month of April. April 15th is the official PURPLE UP day! It’s always fun to see a school full of smiling faces wearing purple. Another idea is to identify one day each week in April to highlight military families. Ideas include: favorite service logo day, patriotic day, Purple day, etc.
  3. Highlight April as Month of the Military Child on the school’s marquee, and in staff and parent newsletters.
  4. Have a daily or weekly announcement with military-connected student facts. Start with the national facts and move into school facts. For great facts on military connect kids, visit Families on the Home front.
  5. Throughout the month, ask military connected kids or family members to do the announcements, or share an interesting fact about their life as a military child on the morning news show.
  6. Decorate display cases and bulletin boards throughout April with military focused memorabilia, or items brought by military kids reflecting their experiences (where they have live or traveled, family members’ service memorabilia, parts of a uniform, patches, coins, models of planes etc.)
  7. Create a world map and pinpoint where students and staff have lived because of their military lifestyle. This is a fantastic way to connect military kids with their peers. It’s total conversation starter when their peers say to them, “Wow! You lived in Japan?”
  8. Decorate the school in flags, purple, and posters! Have a group of kids design posters thanking their families for their service. Have military kids make posters reflecting their experiences. Decorate with purple balloons. Have staff and students wear purple ribbons or carnations on the designated Purple UP day!4-4 MilKid PINTEREST Rd&Bl
  9. Adopt a deployed service member or unit. Create care packages for deployed troops. As a service project collect items from a class, grade, school group, or whole school. Packages can be sent to a student’s family member or another unit identified through the school or community. Collect items from April 4-22, then take the week of April 25 the to pack up and ship. Don’t forget notes, card, and pictures. For ideas of what to send, contact a family member, local installation, or Red Cross. Most school counselors should know if there are families in your school whose service members is deployed. Ask them to help celebrate their family.
  10. Attempt a LIVE SKYPE session with a deployed service family member in the classroom or at an assembly. With a little technical help and decent time zone, this would be a great experience to for military kids to show how they talk to their parent – when they can.
  11. Start a Buddy Program at your school for ALL new kids that transfer in. It’s great way to take the sting out of being the new kid and create support within the school for military connected kids and other new students. This is a great program to be started by Student Council or PTA/PTO. It takes little effort, just a small welcome packet, a meeting once a month and friendly face.
  12. Ask a military member (a parent or sibling of someone in the class) to be a guest speaker and share their perspective on life in the military, as well as their profession.
  13. Create a Hero Wall to honor those in public service, with a bulletin board or posters pinned up about heroes in a child’s life. It could be a family member or family friend currently serving, or a veteran who served (living or dead). It could also be someone who does good in a community – firefighters, policemen, first responders, or religious figures. Keep the idea that kids can connect and share about who they think a hero is – a hero is defined in many different ways. Keep the conversation going about sacrifice and public service!
  14. Create a Time Zone Wall with a series of clocks on a wall identifying different time zones from around the world, with a focus on where a deployed family may be, where a military child has lived in the past, or where a child might be moving to.
  15. Story time using books about military kids’ experience, the military lifestyle, being the new kid in school, or appreciating differences in one another.
  16. Show-n-Tell! Have students bring in something military-related. Examples might be memorabilia from an installation or service branch, favorite airplane, book, military character, items or pictures from prior living locations, pictures or anything related to being a milkid!
  17. Write letters or draw pictures and send to deployed family members!

What ways are you planning to celebrate the military kids in your life? Leave a comment and share it with us!

Posted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer and Managing Director for Families on the Home Front

My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?

You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.

But something is still not right.

So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!

First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.

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The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.

This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially she should be kept at the same level as her last school.

If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to this interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.

Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.

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To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.

With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.

There is help out there.

For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.

Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.

Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!

Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.

The help is out there. Now, go use it.

Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws

Military Spouses: Start Your Career as a Financial Counselor! Apply for a FINRA Fellowship Starting March 1!

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” –Bishop T.D. Jakes

I don’t think any truer words were ever spoken. Twelve years ago, I married my high-school sweetheart and entered the world as a new military spouse, a “dependent.” Suddenly, all of those years of awards and accolades came second fiddle to my new husband’s career. For the first time, I had to figure out the answers to questions like, “Who am I? What is my purpose in this military world?”

Years went on, and I gave birth to our first son. Yet, I felt unfulfilled. Would I be content staying at home until he, and our future children, went to school? Luckily, I didn’t have to struggle with that decision for very long.

In May 2007, the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program approved my application to work towards earning an Accreditation in Financial Counseling (AFC). My passion for assisting military members and their families ultimately led me to finding my purpose: promoting financial readiness and awareness to my other family–my military family. I enthusiastically completed my required hours at Army Community Service in the Financial Readiness Branch at Fort Hood, Texas, and I was able to complete the formal education portion from the luxury of my couch, in my pajamas. The best of both worlds!

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A year after I started the Fellowship Program, I earned my AFC. I had a designation that could follow my name and be added to my resume. Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC has a great ring to it! In 2009, we moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where I taught a Personal Financial Management class to new soldiers who were going through the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course. I was able to serve these newbies before they arrived at their unit.

Between another PCS move to Fort Knox, KY, I taught over 1,000 soldiers. However, I like to think that I reached even more than those 1,000. As we know, soldiers talk to each other (good and bad information), and if they took one thing that I taught them, that knowledge would continue to spread.

While we were at Fort Knox, I had the privilege of working as the Survivor Outreach Services Financial Counselor for Gold Star Families. I was offered the position because I held the AFC designation. For two and a half years, I worked with the greatest families and helped them through their toughest moments. I was heartbroken when we received orders to Peterson AFB in Colorado, as I had finally found my dream job. But, we go where the Army sends us, and my time was up.

Since then, we have moved twice, and I have worked with Zeiders Enterprises as a Personal Financial Counselor. As a contractor, I had the luxury of applying for assignments based on my families’ schedule. I provide short-term financial counseling to military members and their families with managing finances, resolving financial problems, and reaching long-term goals.

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With the AFC, I have been able to add other designations to my name and resume: Certified Credit Report Reviewer and Certified Consumer Debt Collection Specialist. I have taken numerous continuing education classes to keep up-to-date on financial topics. In November 2015, I attended the AFCPE Symposium on a scholarship from the USAA Educational Foundation. While I was there, I met up with FINRA Fellows from the last nine years.

When you become a FINRA Military Spouse Fellow, you are welcomed into a community of intelligent, energetic, and motivated spouses. You are never alone. If you have a question, there’s a Facebook group to assist and cheer you on. We brainstorm and pool our areas of expertise to provide solutions that ultimately help our clients. As we gear up for move number eight in 12 years, to Washington, D.C, I am optimistic about entering the workforce full-time again.

As military spouses, we are part of an extended family that reaches across the world. Just like our nuclear family, finances are a taboo topic to discuss. However, our military members are having to do more with less, and we owe it to them to provide the best customer service we can. As for me, I want to inspire. I know that I can’t fix all of their problems, but I will do what I can to make a difference where I can.  Will you join me in that journey?

If you’re ready to start your career in financial counseling, apply to be a FINRA Military Spouse Fellow starting March 1, 2016. Applications are being accepted through April 22, 2016.

robyn'Posted by Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC, FINRA Military Spouse Fellow