Veteran Caregiver Ready to Finish Degree with Full-Tuition Scholarship
Jennifer Ready tried to finish her bachelor's degree before but had to put her mental health first. She always knew she would finish her degree at some point, so when a scholarship opportunity to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) presented itself, she had to grasp it.
"I applied for this SNHU scholarship because I felt it was the right time to go back to school... I realized that tomorrow is never promised," said Ready.
On August 17, Ready was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU during one of Operation Homefront's virtual Homefront Celebrations for veteran caregivers.
"This scholarship means everything to me. I've been through so much in my life. I feel like I am getting a second chance," said Ready. "Winning this scholarship feels like a gift from God."
Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization that builds strong, stable and secure military families. Each year, Operation Homefront and SNHU partner up to award military spouses and veteran caregivers a full-tuition scholarship to earn an online degree from SNHU.
Ready is the 36th military spouse to be awarded this scholarship and is the second veteran caregiver. She has looked after her husband, John, who developed PTSD after his time in the military.
"The relationship between Operation Homefront and SNHU is so important because the two service organizations do an incredible job of supporting our military students and their spouses," said Edward White, a military academic advisor at SNHU. "The two organizations have a remarkable impact when they come together, and this scholarship is just one example."
SNHU and Operation Homefront began hosting Homefront Celebrations for veteran caregivers last year to celebrate the community and provide a space for caregivers to come together.
"The support and camaraderie they offer each other is always heartwarming because many spouses note the difficulty in building friendships with people who understand the ebbs and flows of their lifestyle," said Victoria White, a regional director of university partnerships at SNHU.
According to Quanesha Albus, a senior manager of veteran caregiver support at Operation Homefront, these caregivers face enormous challenges and often set aside their own needs and goals while caring for loved ones. "The SNHU scholarship opens the door to opportunity and empowers selfless caregivers to focus on themselves and pursue their education," Albus said.
Completing Her Degree to Advance Her Career
Ready currently has her associate degree and works part-time as a social media manager for a small business. She wants to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a concentration in New Media to advance her career.
"I've been working as a social media manager for the past year, and I've absolutely loved it," Ready said. "However, I have missed out on opportunities because I didn't have enough experience or the skills to stay competitive in the job market."
Her professional goals include working with military families to share their stories and organizations like Operation Homefront to raise awareness for the support military families may need.
"I want to help forge relationships between military families and the organizations that serve them," Ready said. "I'm dreaming big, and one of my professional goals is to teach military couples to communicate more effectively, whether that be through in-person workshops or through the content I create."
Through her education, she wants to learn the skills needed to help people and organizations communicate to their audiences and build solid relationships with them through social media.
Ready loves to learn, and she knows that education is essential for military spouses to recognize and reach their goals.
"I believe that education is important to military spouses because knowledge is power, and education can open so many doors and lead to all kinds of opportunities for employment, networking and personal growth – and greater life purpose," Ready said.
Why a Focus on Mental Health Matters
In 2013, Ready was officially diagnosed with depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and while she has struggled with mental illness since she was young, this official diagnosis felt like a life sentence to her.
"I was convinced that I would struggle the rest of my life," she said.
But Ready is a fighter, and while her mental health journey has been a roller coaster, she put in the work to support herself and took the steps needed to ensure she is living and not just surviving.
One of Ready's biggest goals is to eventually write a children's book to explain mental health to military children. She hopes to assist caregivers and military parents with depression and PTSD to better help their children understand mental health.
Ready knows that she and her husband's mental health has affected her son, and she wants to ensure that children have the right tools and understanding to help others and themselves.
"I think that children's books that start important conversations about mental health will help children to grow into people who are aware of what mental health and mental illnesses are and know that it's a strength to seek help for these conditions," said Ready. "Being of service to military families, caregivers/military children is important to me because they deserve to be supported."
Ready's mental health has significantly impacted her life and been a big factor in her not finishing her degree, but she knows how critical taking care of yourself and your mental health is.
"I have been in therapy on a continuous basis since 2013, and I do take medications too. My family has been so supportive of me as I still navigate my recovery, but I can proudly say that I have healed so much in the last five years," said Ready. "I have a game plan for when I slip into depression and find myself in a crisis again."
Her family has been there for her through her recovery journey, and they'll continue to be there for her as she begins a new chapter at SNHU.
She and her husband, who served in the National Guard for five years and in the Army for more than three years as a patriot Missile Operator, have supported one another through their journeys.
"My husband was very excited for me and proud of me to even apply for this scholarship. He is a very supportive husband and believes I can accomplish anything I put my mind to," she said. "His support means everything to me."
Ready has the determination and optimism it takes to complete her personal and professional goals, and she intends to achieve them confidently.
"Jennifer's story is that of an overcomer. Her degree is the next, now attainable, goal that she will achieve," Victoria White said.
Throughout her struggles, Ready has had support from her family, her faith in God and her own strength, and now she is ready and more determined than ever to finish her bachelor's degree.
"The sky is the limit," said Ready
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Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.