May 1, 2017
If Darcy Dorgu seemed a bit stunned this past Friday evening at the Southern New Hampshire University-sponsored Homefront Celebration event in Savannah, Ga., it would be understandable. The military spouse, and mother of five, hadn't yet digested the news she had been selected to receive a full-tuition scholarship for an online degree program from the university - and now, the time was on hand for the public announcement of her award. Dorgu was recognized in the company of her peers, nearly 100 military spouses at Operation Homefront's evening of appreciation and fun at the Hilton Savannah De Soto.
"I never dreamed I'd be chosen," Dorgu said. "It's absolutely amazing."
While she had struggled academically in high school, once Dorgu turned her focus to college as an adult, the only struggle she faced was with finances. "Even with Pell grants, it was too much money," she said. "My husband had enough student loans, so I put myself on the back burner."
Her husband, Oyinpreye, came from Nigeria in 2002 to further his studies, and now serves in the U.S. Army. Having earned his bachelor's and an MBA, he encouraged Dorgu to complete her education, too. "He's so supportive," she said. "He says, 'I know you could do it.'"
She started at a community college, working toward a degree in early childhood education, in the Fort Drum area, which dovetailed with her experience running a successful home daycare business. The financial challenges proved difficult, however, and soon the family moved to Georgia where her husband serves in logistics.
With a desire to continue on a degree path, Dorgu applied for the full-tuition scholarship from SNHU. Beyond personal fulfillment, she wants to set a strong example for her sons, ages 15, 9, 6, 5 and 3. "I want to be their role model," she said. "For them to live up to their full potentials and see the skies the limit for what they can do."
Drawing on her personal experience, Dorgu is now focused on completing a bachelor's in business administration, and is considering a concentration in healthcare.
As a military spouse and parent, she believes education is of particular importance, as it is something no one can take away from you, especially with the uncertainty and continued moves related to military life. "The more education you have, the more employers look at you," she said. Dorgu would like to contribute in a bigger way to the family's income and knows her education will lead in that direction.
Dr. Randy Plunkett, assistant vice president of military initiatives at SNHU, spoke of the importance of education - and of never giving up on a dream - before presenting Dorgu with her scholarship award.
Dorgu has learned much about military life and has volunteered with the USO. If she were to offer advice to military spouses new to the role she has held for the past six years, she would tell them: "Get out there and expose yourself. Volunteer, sign up for events like this one (Operation Homefront's Homefront Celebration), the possibilities are endless. It makes the life so much more rewarding. Don't isolate yourself."
In addressing guests at the Homefront Celebration, Operation Homefront Director of Programs Charlotte Merriam asked one thing of each military spouse: "Look for the newer women in the military community, look for the ones that are on their own and take a few minutes to say hello - and introduce yourself."
That's what many of the women did, too, at the event, pulling others up to the dance floor, engaging in photo booth antics, enjoying dinner conversation and embarking on new friendships.
Guest speaker Master Sergeant (Retired) Sarah J. Drinkard reflected on her experiences serving in the U.S. Air Force and as a military spouse and mother of three daughters. She spoke of the challenges and the sacrifices, as well as the pride she had in serving the country in these varied roles, often moving those in attendance to nods of agreement and, sometimes, tears.
As for Dorgu, she had damp eyes throughout the evening, as she glanced around the room at other military spouses, received words of congratulations, took in her scholarship award plaque and the flowers and gifts presented, incredulous still at what had transpired. Perhaps even more so if she gave thought to the words she offered to others earlier: "Get yourself out there and expose yourself...the possibilities are endless."
When she completed that scholarship application, she opened herself up to a world of possibilities - and with a full-tuition scholarship now in hand, Dorgu is on her way to fulfilling her potential and becoming the role model she aspires to be education-wise for her sons.
The partnership with Operation Homefront, now in its third year, allows SNHU to reaffirm its longstanding commitment to the military community, and is a critical part of SNHU's mission to provide affordable access to higher education.
Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.
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