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Scholarship Unlocks Military Spouse’s Dreams of an Anthropology Degree

Tara Yonce on the left with a blue box on the right. A yellow box within the blue box with the text Tara Yonce Operation Homefront Scholarship Recipient

Tara Yonce has big dreams, and getting her college degree is only the beginning. As a military spouse and stay-at-home mom to her young son, she hasn't had much time to focus on her education so far.

Yonce started her degree right after high school but quickly knew it wasn't the right time for her. Without a degree, she's felt like she was being held back in her career,

"Like anyone that applies for competitive jobs, not only having the job experience matters but the education behind it also," Yonce said. "You need a good job to pay for education but can't get the job because you don't have the education."

She told herself she'd go back to school once her son, Ben, was in school full time.

"Ben will be starting kindergarten this year, and I knew it was time for me to fulfill the promise I made to myself," said Yonce. That promise is about to become a reality.

35th Military Spouse Awarded Full-tuition Scholarship

On July 14, Yonce was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) at an Operation Homefront Celebration. Yonce is the 35th military spouse to be awarded this full-tuition scholarship by SNHU.

Tara and her son sitting in front of Big Bend National Park sign

Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that works to build strong, stable, and secure military families, partners with SNHU multiple times a year to celebrate military spouses across the country. The university awards a full-tuition scholarship, to earn a degree online, at each event. 

"Operation Homefront and SNHU believe that military spouses deserve to be celebrated, as they too serve our country," said Darcy Clardy, a senior regional director for Operation Homefront. "Awarding full-tuition scholarships to SNHU gives us the opportunity to jointly recognize spouses who contribute greatly on the homefront and inspire those – whose education may have previously been put on hold – to pursue their goals."

Receiving this scholarship is a turning point for Yonce.

"I had no idea how we were going to be able to afford school," said Yonce. "I was almost convinced that it just wasn't going to happen without us having to take out a massive amount of student loans." 

Kelly Gump, a Global Lead at SNHU and military spouse scholarship committee member, spoke about the importance of the scholarship and the Operation Homefront Celebration.

"Getting your degree can be expensive. This can be a hurdle for many military spouses," said Gump. "Knowing the cost is covered, and you can complete your degree online, from anywhere, allows these spouses to focus on the learning and the journey and not on all of the roadblocks in their way."

Desire to Amplify Indigenous History Through Her Degree

As a lover of the environment and nature, specifically national parks, Yonce is hoping to turn her passion for them into her career.

"My dream job is to be an interpretive park ranger for a National Park," said Yonce. "An interpretive ranger is someone who leads tours, directs visitors, creates education material, gives important educational presentations, and much more for the National Park they work in."

Tara Yonce standing in front of her work truck surrounded by plants

Yonce plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in anthropology with a minor in environmental sustainability.

"Tara Yonce is a military spouse with a true vision for her future. She knows exactly what she wants to study and what she will do with her newfound knowledge once she completes her degree," Melissa Escobar-Pereira, a regional director of Military Partnerships at SNHU. "Aside from having such a clear plan for her future, she is someone who is looking to give back and make an impact in her community." 

Yonce said that a solid foundation will be formed through her anthropology degree, allowing "me to build my knowledge of the history of our country's Indigenous people and how they developed their cultures."

As a Native American, she sees how underrepresented indigenous people are in historic spaces in this country and wants to work with the National Park Services to help change that. She hopes to connect parks and local tribes to create greater representation of Indigenous history and establish better access to sacred spaces for tribes, and educate people who visit the parks.

Completing her degree always has been important to Yonce, as both of her parents are high school teachers. Higher education has always been her plan — it was just a matter of timing and cost.

Now the time is right for her, and with this new scholarship, she'll be able to begin her education and start making a significant impact on her community and make her dreams a reality.

Passion for National Parks Developed Through Military Moves

Yonce’s husband, Billy, has served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and served as a firefighter for six of those years. However, Billy isn’t the only family member to have served in the Air Force.

Tara Yonce with her husband and son in front of Mount Rushmore

"I did one year (of college) out of high school, but I was just young and undisciplined, so I dropped out and decided to join the Air Force," she said. "I wasn't in for very long due to the 2012 government shutdown, but it really did make me grow up and realize how important higher education was."

Having served in the military made Yonce's transition to a military spouse much easier. She said it made a big difference knowing how the military works, and that she and her family often have little control. During her husband's 10 years of service in the Air Force, their family has gone through two deployments and three moves. They've been stationed in South Dakota for the past three years.

The benefit is that Yonce has traveled and lived in different parts of the country through her moves. This has been a significant factor in her love of National Parks and led her to her passion today.

"I have always loved the outdoors, and we are very lucky to have been stationed in some truly beautiful places," Yonce said. "Getting to live in this region has solidified my belief that our natural places need to be protected, and the general public must be educated about why these spaces are so special."

Yonce can start her journey towards her personal and professional goals through her love of nature and education, her culture, military experience, and now a scholarship from SNHU and Operation Homefront.

"I get to finally start pursuing my dreams," said Yonce.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.

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

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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.