Tag Archives: scholarship

7 Reasons the Commissary is Better Than Walmart

I’m just going to say this now: the commissary is better than Walmart.

If you’re like the majority of military families who live on or near a military installation, you know there’s always one constant: the commissary. No matter where you go, you know you can count on there being a commissary, even worlds away from the United States.

As a kid, I remember trips to the commissary with my babysitter, a retired military spouse. It was the best day because there were always booths set up to taste test things. So, while my babysitter shopped, we’d run through the store tasting all the snacks. It was a military grocery store version of Epcot’s World Showcase. But with florescent lights.

When I married a service member, taking advantage of the commissary was something I looked forward to. I learned the in’s and out’s, like avoiding the commissary on payday, and making sure to tip the baggers

Don’t get me wrong: in a bind, I’ll swing by Walmart, but let me tell you why I love the commissary so much more:

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Baggers. This sounds lazy, but I love the baggers. I love that they push my cart to my car and help me unload my grocery bags. And did you know they work only for tips? Many of them are military dependents or retirees, so giving them a few bucks to deal with my awkward conversations as we walk to my car seems like the least I can do. They’re working hard for the money!

Great selection. I really love that commissaries offer such a variety of products, even international. If you’re like my friend, Heather, who lived in Germany for a few years with her service member, you start to miss those international foods, like Mezzo Mix. But check your commissary to see if they have it in stock. Maybe you’re an all-American foodie? There’s 15 different selections of ketchup for your taste buds to enjoy. I called Walmart near my house to check…they only carry 8. Boom. Winning.

Case lot sales. It’s when the commissary turns into your very own Sam’s Club, or Costco. Twice a year, stateside commissaries put out the best-selling items at lower prices. What’s better? Use those coupons to score an even better deal.

It’s cheaper. It just is. As someone who loves a good steak, I go to the commissary to buy meat. Two New York Strips at Walmart costs me between $16-$21. At the commissary? $12-$14. Most military families will save 30% at commissaries, and one military spouse recognizes the savings, “As a family of 5, I cut coupons like crazy and shop at the commissary. Off post, with the coupons, it is still not affordable!”

There are scholarships. Did you know this was a thing? I didn’t either until I joined the NMFA team. Each year, generous manufacturers and suppliers whose products are sold at military commissaries worldwide help fund scholarships that are given out at each location operated by the Defense Commissary Agency (even OCONUS). In the 15 years these scholarships have existed, nearly $14 million dollars have been awarded to military children.

Comradery. This might seem silly, but I’m one of those people who always feels a sense of pride when I go anywhere on base (except the pharmacy, because patience is limited). When I’m at the commissary and I see a service member in uniform with their family, it puts a smile on my face because I know we’re all this military thing together. These people understand my life, and I feel like we’re all a little family. And I’m proud of that family.

The “dress code.” This one speaks for itself. And although there are differing opinions about the commissary’s dress code (and not all have one), I’m all for it. Mostly. I live in workout clothes these days, so I know I’m breaking the rules at some commissary somewhere, but the alternative has the potential to ruin your day. I’m talking to you, tan leggings lady at Walmart. We’ve all seen the People of Walmart website.

When I think about the crazy ride that military life can be, I always seem to feel ahead of the game when I can locate the commissary at a new installation. I can be guaranteed these seven reasons will make my grocery shopping a little more bearable (because I absolutely dread it).

What does your military family love about the commissary?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Should I Renew My Nursing License?

My career path has been less than straight. About a million years ago, when I first started college, I was a political science major. I thought I would be a lawyer, and maybe end up in DC working in the field of foreign relations. Then I married a service member, and before long I was following him to Korea, changing all my plans in the name of love.

At our next duty station, I went back to school, and this time, found a distance social science program. It wasn’t quite what I had wanted to do, but any degree was better than no degree.

One thing lead to another, and we got divorced. I had two small children, with very little to my name. I was a year away from my bachelor’s degree, and I panicked. I needed steady income NOW.

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After some research, I decided to enter a nursing program. Nursing seemed like the best job for a single mom; my hours would be flexible and I could work swings or nights to make the most of my time with my kids. I would be able to find work just about anywhere, and for the time investment, the return in pay would be good.

For the next fourteen months, I kept my head down, and worked and worked. I was a nursing student during the day and waited tables on the nights and weekends. In any free time I had, I continued to work on my bachelors degree in the distance program (because I couldn’t stomach walking away from a degree when I only had a year to go).

It was, hands down, the hardest period of my life. Money was short, time was short. I was so sleep deprived. I took out a huge amount of money in student loans (regretting that instantly).

I pulled it off, and graduated from both programs in the spring of 2010. I studied for the NCLEX (the nursing licensing exam) and passed on the first try. I was hired into the first position I applied for. I married a wonderful man, and had another child.

Not long after, my family received orders to Germany, where I was unable to find work as an English speaking nurse. Our plans changed, and I started my own business, and began to do other things.

Fast forward six years later: here I am. We are back in the States and I am working in a field that has nothing to do with nursing. I am about to start a graduate program that also has nothing to do with nursing. Other than a short period of time when I first had my license, I have not worked as a nurse.

What’s a girl to do? Do I renew my California nursing license, even though I’m in the DC area and it won’t help me here? Do I renew it even though my educational and career choices are taking me farther and farther away from the field of nursing? Do I let the license go, despite still owing a considerable amount of money on my student loans? Do I commit to never nursing again even though I am well aware of how quickly plans can change?

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When I really stop to think about it, the one thing holding me back is the cost. I could renew my license, but there will be an additional fee every two years to keep it active. There will be more fees to start working in a new state. Then I will have to pay to keep THAT license up. There are continuing education requirements. It gets expensive quickly.

I’m not ready to let it go. I like knowing I have it there, sitting in my wallet, in case I ever need to fall back on it. I am employable in more than one field, and that’s okay. I earned the right to call myself a nurse, and even if I am not practicing, I don’t want to let all the time and money I spent on learning the trade to go completely to waste.

If you are struggling to make the decision to renew a professional license, and are worried about the costs of renewing or transferring it, don’t forget NMFA has professional funds you can use to help pay for continuing education, fees and other license related expenses.

Apply today!

Have you considered letting a professional license go because of expense or some other reason? How did you decide?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Online vs Traditional School: Which is Best for Military Spouses?

You’ve decided. There’s no better time than now. This is the best thing for you and your military family. It’ll be tough, and it might mean late nights and early mornings, but you’re doing it.

You’re going back to school.

You’ve researched degree programs, figured out how you’ll pay for it, and now the only thing left to decide is whether you should complete school online program, or in-person.

Weighing the options between online and traditional schools is tough for many military spouses. Life certainly isn’t routine, and you aren’t guaranteed an extended amount of time at any duty station. How do you decide what’s right for you?

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I asked two military spouses, who are going back to school, how they made their decision. Here’s what they said:

Heather, an Air Force spouse and mother of four, chose traditional school when she decided to pursue her Master’s degree. She completed her undergraduate studies through an online program, and was looking for the on-campus experience for her Master’s—with a library, places to study, sporting events, and graduation ceremonies with the friends she’d make in class.

“I wanted the classroom conversations and networking opportunities; the ability to raise my hand and get an answer instantly, get to know classmates and professors face to face, attend extra events and workshops, and meet others in my field of study. Because I did a distance program for undergrad, I’m looking forward to the experiences I’ll have on campus,” Heather shared.

I also talked to Lyndy, an Air Force spouse with four kids. She chose an online program for three reasons: time, family, and flexibility.

“The main reason I chose an online program is because of time. I do not have physical time to dedicate to the classroom. I work during the day and I am also the mostly-sole care giver for my kids after work. That includes homework and getting the kids to and from their activities. I need the flexibility to fit school into my schedule instead of my schedule fitting into school,” she mentioned. “I can accelerate my degree if I choose, or I can take it slow if life happens.”

And life is sure to happen (can I get an AMEN, milspouses?).

Family also weighed into Heather’s decision. With four kids, Heather likes that traditional school means less multi-tasking. “When I am in class, I am in class. I won’t need to multi-task while cooking dinner. I can focus.” All of her classes are scheduled for the evening hours, and only meet a couple days a week. “This way, I can give my kids 100% during the day, and still give my classes 100% in the evening.”

Many military spouses can relate to the ‘family first’ mentality. When time is precious with our service member, we soak up every moment. Fitting school into that mix was something Lyndy considered, too, “With four kiddos and a husband who travels and works long hours, the kids rely on me for stability and support. They only have one childhood, so my degree program needs to fit within my family so I can be there for those once-in-a-lifetime moments.”

Heather echoed the importance of family support. “I am lucky to have extended family in the area who are willing to help with the kids when my husband is TDY, which feels like all the time lately. I have a lot of people I can lean on right now to help me get the kids to activities, or make dinner on the nights I won’t be home. I don’t know if I will ever have this level of support again. I know the days we have here are numbered, and I feel like it’s now, or never, to get my degree.

Other factors to consider are whether you’ll use the GI Bill, if you might have to PCS during your semester, or whether you have a support system around to help with unexpected things, like sick kids or deployments.

Lyndy and Heather both know the potential struggles they could face with the program they’ve chosen, but they also know the reward at the finish line. Are you ready to pursue the degree or certification you’ve always wanted? NMFA will help you pay for it! Apply by January 31, 2016 for our military spouse scholarships—we’re giving away more than $500,000 to deserving and motivated spouses.

NMFA has partnered with online AND traditional schools to give you special scholarships for degrees like nursing, social work, and sciences and technology.

So, what’ll it be: online or traditional school?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

You Don’t Have an Advanced Degree–So What?

It’s no secret military spouses are a force to be reckoned with; no longer the ‘silent ranks’ of decades past, spouses are determined to play a huge role in the financial stability of their families. More military spouses are leaving the stereotypes of yester-year behind and forging into territories that match their civilian counterparts.

No longer just the baby-making, bon-bon eating, Dependapotamuses they were made out to be, military spouses are so much more than that. And they’ve got the credentials and degrees to show it.

But what if you’re one of the many spouses who don’t have an advanced degree? Are you still a force to be reckoned with?

Abso-freaking-lutely! Here’s why:

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You’ve mastered the art of scrapping. And I mean that in the most rad way possible. Human Resources expert Regina Hartley gave a TED Talk recently, encouraging employers to “interview the scrapper.” Not having a Master’s degree, or even a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean your resume can’t stand up to the next guy’s.

Military life means spouses have to learn to be scrappers. You survive deployments, pack up an entire house, deliver babies alone, learn how to fix practically anything, budget like a beast, raise kids, and even work multiple jobs. And you do it all to support your service member.

You face adversity in the job market when you move to remote locations, or places where everyone seems to have a Master’s or Doctorate. It’s overwhelming to compete.

But because you’re a scrapper, your value goes up.

“[Scrappers] embrace their trauma and hardships as key elements of who they’ve become, and know that without those experiences, they might not have developed the muscle and grip required to become successful,” Hartley went on to say in her TED Talk.

More companies are expanding their employee base with diverse and well-rounded people, and not all will be the Harvard grad or the 4.0 GPA intern from New York City. They’ll be the military spouse with 4 jobs in the last 5 years in 3 different states, or the military spouse with an Associate’s degree, who also runs her own business. And you can bet they’ll be the veteran spouse who holds down the fort while his significant other is deployed.

Even without an advanced degree, you are a valuable asset because you’re a pro at cultivating relationships. You are constantly moving, reinventing, and holding sorting ceremonies to find your new tribe (feel free to join me in Ravenclaw). And that’s not something a Master’s program can teach.

As a military spouse, you know the only thing you have full control over is yourself. You are sometimes at the mercy of the service, and ‘to expect the unexpected’ is as prepared as you can be. Because of their ability to thrive and bloom, regardless of whether they have a degree or some fancy letters after their name, military spouses and scrappers, alike, have “a sense of purpose that prevent them from giving up on themselves.”

Just because you didn’t finish your Bachelor’s degree, or you decided to forego debt and pass on getting your Master’s or that other certification, doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable to a company. And it dang sure doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable as a military spouse, friend, and human being.

There are many ways to break free of those old stereotypes, and having a degree isn’t the only one. You’ve already mastered the art of scrapping, what will you do next?

What would you tell those military spouses without an advanced degree? Do you think a degree makes a difference?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, or decide it’s time to achieve your next educational goal, NMFA is here to help. This year, we’re giving away over $500,000 in scholarships to deserving military spouses. Don’t miss out. The application period is open until January 31, 2016, and there are SO many different opportunities waiting for you on our website. Apply today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Why I Delayed Grad School. And Why Changing Your Mind is Okay.

It was my junior year of college, and my Public Relations Strategy professor very adamantly told us one day in class, “Go get a job after you graduate!” She preached to us on more than one occasion, telling us to forego graduate school right after finishing our Bachelor’s degree so we wouldn’t have to compete with our peers, who would have two years of work experience by the time we finished our Master’s degree.

This really struck a chord with me. In college, I was that girl with two jobs and two internships at one time. The thought of being set back (crazy, I know) by graduate school was terrifying to me.

I was also extremely fearful of the debt. I lived at home during school to help cut down on costs, and avoid leaving school with debt. To willingly take on debt for a Master’s degree, after being able to avoid it in undergrad, just didn’t make sense.

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I graduated with my Bachelor’s and packed up my bags to move myself to the Nation’s capital. This summer will be 4 years since I graduated and I’m starting to play around with the idea of grad school.

Aside from my college professor giving me the scary reality that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, I also had no idea what I wanted my career to be. This is what lead me to choose a Public Relations degree; I wanted to study something I could apply to any industry because I was so indecisive (which I still am, but aren’t we all?).

Why now?

There are so many more options for advanced degrees today! In just 4 years, online degree programs have become commonplace. When I was in school, online classes were only offered for a few select classes, and they weren’t the best.

Now, I can actually come to terms with the cost. After working for a few years, and with the strides that have been made with online degrees, there is a possibility to get a graduate degree without the gift of lifelong debt.

I’m also surrounded by a lot of motivated co-workers and friends who are all furthering their education. They’ve inspired me to finally look into going back to school (and to finally figure out a more specific path for my career).

Are you thinking about going back to school? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do your research. You can find an accredited graduate degree program that won’t totally break the bank. If the program of your dreams will still cost a pretty penny, look into your options for scholarships, and what your loan payments will look like when it’s all said and done.
  2. Have a passion? Keep that in mind. If you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, a nurse, a scientist, take your passion and use it to fuel your journey. So often, we put our passion on the back burner and find the job that just works for time-being, but don’t sell yourself short. Go for it!
  3. Give yourself a break. If you have been putting off school and feel like it’s too late, or you won’t be able to keep up: give yourself a break! It’s never too late to follow your dreams and go back to school. There are so many different options when it comes to furthering your degree, so don’t let those fears hold you back.

If you’re ready to head back to school, or pursue the certification you’ve been thinking about, take a leap and start the journey. NMFA is here to help–we’ve got scholarships for military spouses and we’re giving away over half a MILLION dollars in scholarships this year! Apply by January 31, 2016.

Did you put off graduate school? What made you finally decide to go back?

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Military Spouse Scholarships are Waiting for YOU!

“I’m waking up and realized I did not have a dream! I always told myself ‘It’s ok, I don’t need to go to school,’ because I never wanted to take money away from the things my family needed.” –Emily Yancey, NMFA Military Spouse Scholarship Recipient

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Emily Yancey and family receiving her scholarship from NMFA Executive Director Joyce Raezer

At the National Military Family Association, we meet so many military families from all walks of life. We hear their stories and, whenever we are able, we try to make their family’s military journey a little easier.

Since 2004, NMFA has awarded $3.3 million in scholarships to more than 3,500 military spouses. Emily Yancey was not one of those 3,500 recipients, yet, she still wanted to make a difference through NMFA. Earlier this year, Emily helped NMFA secure a grant to assist local military spouses as they pursue their career and education dreams.

Emily’s dream is to pursue a certification in culinary arts, which will allow her to contribute to her family, lifestyle, and community. She says cooking as a family has helped them heal after their lives changed when Emily’s husband was medically retired two years ago.

In Emily’s NMFA scholarship essay, she wrote, “It is important that military spouses pursue their education and career goals because it is important to keep personal identity. I personally know how quickly and easily personal dreams and aspirations can get put on the back burner. My husband is 100% disabled and it has taken me over two years to truly understand a little time for yourself will go a long way. It is not necessarily a negative thing but, it is important to stay true to you. My husband has always been my biggest supporter to get to school but following through on my part is another story. Being a military spouse means traveling to new duty stations, quickly adapting, and most importantly being the glue that sticks the family together. It’s a tough but rewarding job to help encourage and support the ranking military spouse but it is also that important to follow through for yourself.”

NMFA is thrilled to award Emily with $2,500 scholarship to help her pursue her culinary dreams. But then, an anonymous donor heard the Yancey’s story and was so inspired they decided to surprise Emily and her family with a scholarship that will allow her to finish her degree!

As you can imagine, Emily was surprised and graciously shared her feelings with us. “Words cannot say loud enough how thankful I am for each person that made this happen for me. Thank you!”

Are you a military spouse pursuing an educational or career licensure or certification? NMFA’s military spouse scholarship application is open until January 31, 2016, and we’re ready to help you achieve your goals! Apply now!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Let NMFA’s Spouse Scholarships Help You ‘Reinvent’ Yourself for Success!

Are you ready to reinvent yourself? Feel stuck in your career? I felt that way several years ago. There I was, a women in mid-life with, what felt like, no responsibilities because the kids are raised and mostly on their own, a husband who had a career going well–both civilian and Air Force Reservist duty–and me…working, but unfulfilled. I was in a black hole and not sure how to get out of it. But because of the support given to me by the National Military Family Association, my story has a happy ending. Yours can, too.

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As my husband and I raised our two daughters, I was always employed.  Throughout my more than 35 years of working, all of my jobs have been challenging and rewarding, including the 12 years I was self-employed. I don’t have a formal 4-year college education, but always enjoyed learning. Not having a degree has never held me back with jobs I pursued. My core skill set is in Human Resources.

I found myself in the ‘black hole’ when I took a lateral move with my company into an Administrative Assistant position. There are several reasons why I did this, including the opportunity to get a security clearance. We had recently moved to the Washington D.C. area, and it was pretty obvious when we moved here that I would need a security clearance to remain marketable. My clearance came through very quickly, and I thought “Great! I have all this HR experience and now I have a clearance!”

However, looking for this new job did not work out in my favor. Maybe it’s because my resume now said Administrative Assistant? I didn’t want to be that anymore–I considered myself an HR Professional. My resume and experience validates this. Why was I getting nowhere in finding a new job? Sure, I had interviews and call backs, but not the great HR job I thought I was entitled to.

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During this several-year process of getting nowhere, and drowning in my abyss, I realized if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed a professional certification–a PHR certification, which stands for Professional in Human Resources. I was going to put a stake in the ground and declare, “Yes, I am an HR Professional!”  Never mind the pass rate is 57% or that the cost of the books is $750 dollars, and the test is $400. I had no choice. This was my way out.

Once I made this decision, I felt a great weight had lifted. I had a plan and felt confident this was the answer. I also became aware of the scholarships offered to spouses of military members through the National Military Family Association.   I created my profile and went through the application process. I was asked to complete several essays on why it was important to me to pursue my education, particularly as a military spouse.

Several months went by and I received an email that my application had been chosen! I was so honored! Again, this was a validation that I had made a good decision by pursuing the PHR. I was given $500 by a very generous donor.

Within days of passing the test, I was getting call after call for HR opportunities.  I am thrilled to report that I am now a very happy HR Generalist for a government contractor. My day consists of engaging problem solving issues with my client base. I have the job of my dreams. I encourage you to use the benefits National Military Family Association has to offer; if only just for the support and encouragement they give us. And it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Are you a military spouse ‘reinventing’ yourself by going to back school or pursuing a certification? Apply for NMFA’s scholarships now through January 31, 2016!

Posted by Tracey Stringfellow, PHR, National Military Family Association Scholarship Recipient