Military Spouse Latoya McClary found herself at the bottom of her priority list – something she wants to change.
McClary has many goals for himself, some personal and others professional. And while she’s grasped her personal goals, she knows the best way to achieve her professional goals is to start with a college degree.
Her husband, Leroy, an Army Sergeant, is currently utilizing his military accomplishments and working towards his degree in Graphic Design at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
McClary knew her graduation could put a financial strain on the family. When she saw a full scholarship opportunity at SNHU, like so many other spouses in the military, she had to pursue it.
Strengthen families, change lives
Each year, SNHU and Operation Homefront (OH) come together to award several full scholarships to military spouses at nationwide Homefront Celebration events.
“Our relationship with Operation Homefront allows us to align our mission to transform lives through the power of higher education with their mission to build strong, stable, and safe military families,” she said Victoria White, a regional director for military and community college partnerships at SNHU. “Together we were able to change the lives of 38 military spouses – and their families – with a full scholarship.”
This partnership between SNHU and Operation Homefront continues to transform lives.
“SNHU has made it possible for spouses in the military across the country to pursue an education that seemed impossible to achieve.” barbara Herzinger, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Operation Homefront, an opportunity that resonated with McClary.
sharpen your focus
McClary decided it was time for her to put her professional goals first and do something for herself. So she applied for the scholarship, which paid off.
“I made a pact with myself to take more risks with my future. The kids are back in school, getting older and needing me less,” McClary said. “This is a perfect time for me to sharpen my focus and move forward.”
On November 4, SNHU and OH hosted an in-person Homefront Celebration event in Virginia to bring together military spouses and award McClary a full scholarship to begin her bachelor’s degree in public health.
“Latoya’s scholarship application was compelling and demonstrated tremendous adaptability because she kept mentioning situations that might be perceived as setbacks that she used for personal and professional growth,” said White.
McClary has worked hard on a health and fitness journey in her personal life and the work has paid off for her so now with her new scholarship she will be able to combine her passion for health and fitness and her degree in Public Health to achieve their main goal – to help others.
“She plans to study public health and wants to make a difference in healthcare and help others,” Herzinger said. “Knowing that navigating the healthcare system can be challenging for people and hearing about Latoya’s passion for the field, I know she will achieve great things.”
How a personal focus led to public health
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, McClary decided to work on herself, specifically her mental and physical health, to improve her overall quality of life. It quickly became her passion.
“During the pandemic, my focus has been on fitness and nutrition,” she said. “Our girls have been taking virtual classes so it has been a respite from carpooling, after school activities and the like. This laser-sharp focus led me to unleash and maintain a 100-pound weight loss without dieting or surgical assistance.”
Not wanting to limit her life and not having access to a gym at the time, McClary took a more creative approach to her health journey. From early morning bike rides and late night nature walks with her daughters to developing new recipes together, she has been able to work on herself and connect with her daughters.
“We even found ways to recreate our favorite dishes instead of using the food delivery service,” McClary said. “These small changes have helped me resolve and maintain my weight loss. I want to empower others to take their lives back.”
Now that she can finally start her studies, she can begin her journey of helping others. Feeling like she doesn’t have a degree held her back as she didn’t have the same experience or education as others.
“This Public Health degree from SNHU would catapult me to a level where I can reach out to people who have otherwise been overlooked and long forgotten to find new ways to improve their quality of life,” said McClary.
Why Education Matters for Military Spouses
Often, spouses in the military have to put their career plans and ambitions on hold to support their spouse’s military career. something McClary not only knows well, but embraces.
“Our girls know that daddy might have to work late, come in early and get a last-minute order, but Mom… Mom will be there 24/7,” McClary said. “It has given him the flexibility he needs to focus on his career. Plus it gave me a lot of space to figure out what I want to do for myself.”
And for McClary, it’s finally possible to continue her education. For military families, moving and constant change is a way of life, but McClary believes education is important for military spouses because it’s just for them — it can be their constant.
“I love learning new things and having new experiences. I also love sharing my knowledge with others. Education connects people and gives them the opportunity to explore, share and deepen special interests,” said McClary. “An education is not lost in the permanent change of station (PCS). It belongs to you alone. Nobody can take it from you.”
Graduating from SNHU is just the beginning for McClary. With the support of her two daughters and especially her husband, she knows she can do it.
“He was excited,” she said of her husband’s response to her scholarship. “I have chosen to put myself and many of my personal goals on hold to be the more consistent parent in our home. He recognizes that this would allow me to take my health journey to the next level.”
And the next level is exactly where it wants to go.
“I’ve achieved my goal, and now it’s time to teach others how to do that in their own lives,” McClary said.
On-line. On the campus. Choose your program from over 200 SNHU degrees that will get you where you want to go.
Alexa Gustavsen ’21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.