Full Circle Moments

There are moments in life when you come around to the where you’ve been before; full circle moments. These are the moments forcing you to take stock of your life and realize just what kind of progress you’ve made.

Today, I briefed a group of high school educators on the benefits the Army offers to those serving, and this applies to all branches of military service. Four years ago, I would have been in the audience as one of those high school teachers. Now, I’m the Military Education Counselor, providing information on options they can present to their students for opportunities in careers and higher education.

As a former high school teacher and advisor to the same group of students during their sophomore through senior years, gently guiding them to make sound choices leading to graduating high school on time, then setting them up for success for those next years of their lives, was something I was proud of. But I also knew many of them would finish the next four or five years post high school graduation struggling with student loan debt. Others would start college, and find they could not afford to continue leading them to take jobs to pay their living expenses, not to meet their goals. Some would find they were ill prepared for college once they got there, but because that is the direction society pushes them into, instead of a place where they would thrive while gaining perspective and maturity, they are now discouraged, perhaps having boomeranged right back to their old bedrooms in their parents’ homes.

Not all young adults are ready to be an academic or career success at 18. In fact, most are not.

In my serial fiction series, “An Operator’s Daughter,” I’ve tried to do a soft-sell on what I presented to educators today: serving in our nation’s armed forces provides options and opportunities for young adults in ways other areas of society doesn’t.

My main character, Ashton Grace McAllister (Maguire), uses her father’s Post 911 GI Bill benefits as one way to pay her college expenses. Those who serve in the military at least 10 years may allocate months of their benefits at year six, then serve another four to pass along the precious gift of debt-free education to their spouse or their children.

Ashton’s young Special Warfare Operator, Dustin, is using tuition assistance benefits to pay for college courses while he serves to earn a bachelor of science degree in engineering. And, as he is active-duty Navy, he is considered an independence adult, no longer a dependent of his parents, and thus is eligible for Pell Grants based upon his income only. College students who are not active duty military must factor their parents’ income into their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) keeping many ineligible for Pell Grants.

While Ashton began her college courses with a goal to major in psychology and become a mental health counselor, Dustin started with the goal of completing his general education requirements, figuring if he just got started, he would find what he was good at leading to him to choose a college major. Those serving can also have colleges evaluate their Joint Services Transcript—the record of their military training, and that training is worth college credit. Choosing a college degree plan maximizes that training allows them to complete their associate’s and bachelor’s degree faster.

One might say, once a teacher, always a teacher. While I may have been driven away from a high school classroom, I’ve landed on my feet at a place where I can continue to make differences in the lives of others. My happy place is Joint Base Lewis McChord’s Stone Education Center, and my passion is helping soldiers, veterans, and their dependents meet their education and career goals along with creating stories during my evenings and weekends found on the serial fiction platform Amazon’s Kindle Vella.

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