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5 Military Spouses Awarded Full-Tuition Scholarships to SNHU

A graphic with two silhouette profiles in white and red with blue stars to the right of them

This spring, Southern New Hampshire University, in partnership with Operation Homefront, has awarded full-tuition scholarships to five military spouses to help them reach their educational goals.

“With frequent moves, deployments and often living far from family, military spouses struggle to complete a traditional degree and pursue a meaningful career,” said Brig Gen (ret) Robert D. Thomas, president and chief operating officer of Operation Homefront.

Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable and secure military families, and SNHU have now awarded 45 military spouses full-tuition scholarships. The scholarships give recipients the chance to prioritize their education through a flexible and military-friendly online learning model.

“We are so grateful to Southern New Hampshire University for providing these five very deserving military spouses with a chance to realize their dreams, regardless of where the military may take their families, and enjoy a more strong, stable and secure future in the communities they've worked so hard to protect," Thomas said.

‘This Scholarship ... Opens Up the Door’

Shante Cruz, a military spouse and a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU

For a while now, Shante Cruz has talked to her husband, an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, about her desire to go to college. “I had been thinking more and more about how important it is for me to start working on my educational and, eventually, professional goals,” she said.

So, when the opportunity to apply for a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU through Operation Homefront presented itself, Cruz took advantage of it. She knows other military spouses who had positive experiences at SNHU, and she’s finding she has more time to spare now that her four daughters are getting older.

“I just thought to myself that I have to take the chance and hope for the best,” she said.

When Cruz learned she had been selected for the scholarship, she said she felt disbelief and excitement. She plans to pursue a business administration degree, which will provide her with a broad-based education that will be beneficial across the various careers she wants to explore.

“With my degree, I hope to improve my confidence for when I enter the workforce,” Cruz said. “I would like to ... be prepared for a career that I can grow in and be able to help support my family.” Earning a college degree will also help her show her daughters that there’s no time limit when it comes to reaching their goals.

As a result of the challenges that can come with the military lifestyle, she knows the importance of keeping personal goals, and she believes that education is a vehicle for being prepared for new and evolving situations.

“This scholarship means a lot to me,” Cruz said. “It opens up the door to me being able to further my education and provides a (clearer) path for me to be able to get it done.” 

‘Earning a Master's Degree Was Always My Dream’

Maddie Davis, a military spouse and a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU, with her family

For Maddie Davis, this scholarship represents hope. 

“Going back to school and earning a master's degree was always my dream, but, given our current day-to-day, I wasn't quite sure how we were going to actually be able to work that into a reality,” she said. 

But a perfect storm of good timing and circumstance led her to apply for the scholarship to continue her education.

In December, her family completed what they expect to be their last Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Her husband, who has served in various roles within Security Forces for the U.S. Air Force for the past 16 years, recently became a Military Training Leader (MTL). 

Plus, her children are now teenagers and preparing to embark on their next chapters, and she wants them to know they can achieve their goals with persistence and the ability to adapt.

“Things finally felt right for me to be able to shift my focus a bit and take the leap into continuing down my own educational path,” Davis said. 

After finding out she had been selected for the scholarship, she said she was speechless. The opportunity will allow her to begin a master’s in child psychology and development, which complements her undergraduate studies in human development, family studies and sociology. 

“The fields of child/adolescent development and counseling have always called to me,” Davis said. “I feel like, with this (master’s) program, I will be able to best expand my current knowledge and understanding while enhancing the skills that I need to further my profession.”

Davis is a self-proclaimed lover of learning — an attribute she feels is important for military spouses to have as they navigate constant change.

“By trying to immerse ourselves into the new environment we find ourselves in, I've learned that it not only helps to connect us locally with its history, people (and) places,” she said. “(It) makes that temporary house truly feel like home while we're there and only betters us as individuals by taking those lessons and experiences with us when it's time to move on to the next.”

‘I’ve Been Given a Life-Changing Gift’

Arin Lelevier, a military spouse and a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU

Arin Lelevier couldn’t believe it when she learned she had received the full-tuition scholarship to SNHU. “I remember thinking they must have the wrong number; this can’t be real,” she said. “I felt overcome with gratitude, excitement and pure joy.”

Her husband, an acoustic intelligence specialist for the U.S. Navy, is currently deployed on a submarine. “I sent him an email when I received the news, so I’m hoping he has read it by now,” Lelevier said. “I can’t wait to get his response. He is going to be so excited for me.” 

College has been something Lelevier’s been working on and off toward as she’s navigated deployments, moves and motherhood as a military spouse. But pursuing her education is important to her — it's an opportunity to encounter new people and perspectives and unlock new career possibilities.

“Education helps to empower military spouses and give(s) us a sense of accomplishment,” Lelevier said. “It keeps us competitive in the workforce while facing challenges like PCSing.”

She thinks being able to cross the stage as a college graduate will also build her confidence.

“I want to be proud of myself and remind myself I can do new and hard things,” she said. “I want to have a career I love and enjoy going to — a career that challenges me and where I can see I am making a difference.”

Lelevier plans to earn her psychology degree at SNHU with the goal of becoming a school counselor, where she can be a positive and empowering influence on children. 

"I’ve been given a life-changing gift," she said about the scholarship she received. “It allows me the chance to follow my dreams and finally finish my degree.”

‘SNHU Will Be the Catalyst to Get All Things Going’

Casey Saunders, a military spouse and a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU

Casey Saunders started college after she finished high school, but she said she lacked the direction and motivation she needed to continue with it. But after caring for her mother, who was battling and later beat colon cancer, her goal became clear: She wanted to become a cancer registrar.

“It was incredibly difficult watching (my mom) go through that time but also amazing to see all the levels of detail that go into an individual’s care plan,” she said. “I’ve never had a desire to go into the medical field as a nurse or provider but felt drawn into this realm of information.”

So Saunders started researching career paths and qualifications and wondered how she could make it work while still supporting her service member husband, who serves in the Air Defense Artillery in the U.S. Army.

Saunders was lying on her living room floor as she played with her young sons when she saw Operation Homefront's call for scholarship applicants — and knew she’d regret it if she didn’t apply. 

“As I was living in the chaos of the moment, I realized that there is no such thing as a perfect time to do anything,” she said. “I thought about being able to show (my kids) in real-time that chasing your dreams and pursuing your passion is always a worthwhile venture.”

She was shocked when she found out she’d been selected — and then felt awash in amazement and gratitude.

“(The scholarship) means that I can pursue my goals without putting a financial burden on my family,” Saunders said. “It means I can show my boys that it is never too late to chase your dreams. It means I can finally press forward with creating a career that has a real impact.”

She’s planning to pursue a degree in health information management and, as a military spouse and mother to two young boys, thinks SNHU is the right fit for her to start moving toward her career.

“A degree from SNHU will be the catalyst to get all things going,” Saunders said. “It will help establish that routine and structure while being flexible to allow me to obtain my degree while still running my house.”

As a military spouse, it hasn’t been easy for Saunders to focus on her goals with all the uncertainties accompanying her family’s lifestyle. She said she’s fortunate to have a supportive husband, though, and believes the opportunity to attend SNHU will give her a chance to establish herself.

“I want to be able to help support my family while still being able to take the lead at home when my husband is unavailable due to the demands of his job,” she said. “With this path, I will eventually be able to establish a career that will be flexible and mobile for whatever the Army throws our way.”

‘Education Will Help (Me) Find Myself Again’

Kelly Sleesman, a military spouse and a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to SNHU

After Kelly Sleesman graduated from high school with an advanced diploma and honors, she went right into the workforce. College has always been her dream, but she hasn't had the chance to make it a reality. She's spent much of her adult life supporting her husband's 18-year U.S. Navy career and raising their four children.

“Between my husband's four deployments, five moves and the special needs of our youngest daughter, continuing my education seemed to never be in my arms reach,” Sleesman said.

Until now.

This scholarship opportunity between Operation Homefront and SNHU gave Sleesman the push she needed to go for it. "The scholarship means a lot to me. It is a way for me to be able to find myself again, not just a mom or wife,” she said.

Sleesman is soon to become a first-generation college student as she seeks to earn a degree in human resources management and business.

“Education will help (me) find myself again,” she said. "Plus, I will be able to help give back more to the military spouse community.”

She plans to use her degree to help other military spouses find careers that fit their lives. Transitioning back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom will also allow her to help financially support her family, who are currently living in Hawaii.

“I also want to gain the confidence in myself that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to,” she said. “I want to show my kids to continue to reach their goals no matter what or how long it has been.” 

When her husband found out she was a scholarship recipient, Sleesman said he was very excited and is supportive of her next chapter.

“Going through high school, I always thought I would be going to college,” she said. “Now, 18 years later, I finally will be able to.”

Expanding Access to Education

As more than 1,800 military-affiliated learners finished their degrees from SNHU this past spring, these five military spouses learned they would soon have the chance to work toward theirs.

"SNHU takes great pride in our longstanding commitment to serving the military community, a legacy dating back to World War II,” said Jeremy Owens, associate vice president of University Partnerships at SNHU.

This commitment aligns with the university's mission to expand access to education and meet the unique needs of each learner.

“It is our privilege to reaffirm our dedication by actively reducing barriers and fostering opportunities for military spouses and their families," Owens said. "The sacrifices made by military families merit recognition, and SNHU is deeply honored to play a pivotal role in empowering military spouses to pursue their educational aspirations."

A degree can change your life. Learn more about how the SNHU military experience can support service members and their families.

Rebecca LeBoeuf Blanchette '18 '22G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University, where she fulfills her love of learning daily through conversations with professionals across a range of fields. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Professional Writing from SNHU’s campus in Manchester, New Hampshire, and followed her love of storytelling into the online Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing at SNHU. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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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.