From Sacrifices to Success: Hard Work Pays Off for Military Spouse
Throughout the year, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) supports military spouses, recognizing the sacrifices they make and their vital role each day in the lives of service members and their families.
So, on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, SNHU honors its military spouse community – and celebrates recent graduates within this community, with a spotlight on Eliana Cornejo '23, who earned her bachelor's in business administration.
Cornejo spent the past 13 years as a military spouse supporting her husband, Kevin, who serves in the U.S. Air Force. But throughout her educational journey these past few years, it's been Cornejo's family, Operation Homefront and the SNHU community supporting her.
How Her Journey Began
Not too long ago, Cornejo decided it was time to do something for herself. She wanted to return to school for her bachelor’s degree. Through SNHU's partnership with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that works to build strong, stable, and secure military families, Cornejo had an opportunity to apply for a full-tuition scholarship.
“Military spouses often have to put their career goals on hold as they navigate frequent moves, deployments, and live far away from their support system, so receiving a tuition-free scholarship is a life-changing gift,” said Jenny Valderas, senior director of family support services at Operation Homefront.
Although hopeful, Cornejo didn’t think this scholarship was in the cards for her. She was in for a surprise, though.
“I had the honor of being selected,” she said. “It wasn’t in the plans, but I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and incredibly grateful that I got chosen to be here.”
At SNHU, military spouses can prioritize themselves and their education, no matter what military life throws at them. Through the partnership between SNHU and Operation Homefront, both organizations are ensuring more military spouses have those opportunities.
“Not only has SNHU awarded 39 life-changing, tuition-free scholarships, they have helped us host Homefront Celebrations all over the U.S., which bring military spouses together for an evening to relax, feel some appreciation for their service and help them make connections with other spouses in their area,” said Valderas.
SNHU and Operation Homefront collaborate multiple times yearly to award military spouses a full-tuition scholarship to achieve their academic goals.
Cornejo walked across the stage with her degree this year at SNHU’s spring 2023 Commencement in Manchester, New Hampshire. “It feels so surreal to be here,” she said.
While Cornejo's husband joined her at Commencement, she had supporters nationwide cheering her success.
“After years of supporting her husband while he served, we are so incredibly proud that Eliana has accomplished her lifelong goal of finishing her degree, and our friends at Southern New Hampshire University helped bring that dream to life,” Valderas said.
Serving Others Through Her Nonprofit Degree
Cornejo earned her bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in nonprofit organization in just two and half years. She now hopes to use her degree to help others.
"I love to serve people," she said. "I've been serving at my church for a few years now, which is also considered a nonprofit, and it's just my heart to serve the community."
Cornejo believes the efforts of nonprofit organizations are essential for communities to thrive. She has a strong desire to play a more significant part in that.
"After receiving my scholarship, it was not difficult deciding on a career path," she said. "Serving others is a part of who I am and my faith."
As a military spouse, Cornejo knows what it means to prioritize others' needs first. During her degree program, she supported her husband, served her church community, and raised her two young children, Rafael and Milania.
Her degree was something for just her, and this accomplishment will help her achieve her goal of working with a nonprofit organization.
Since earning her degree, Cornejo has already spoken to nonprofit organizations in hopes of working with them. And after taking the summer to spend time with her children, she plans on diving into her new career path head first.
"I'm just excited for whatever is out there for me," she said.
Eliana's educational journey will not only allow her to help others, but it has also already helped her discover she can handle more than she thought and learn to believe in herself.
"It was an opportunity for me to stretch myself, to test myself, and see my capabilities are much larger than I thought," she said. "It really helped me with my doubts and just knowing that I can do anything."
Supported All The Way To The Finish Line
With her newfound confidence, Cornejo wants to encourage other military spouses to continue their education as she believes they need to maintain something for themselves.
"I think that it is easy for military spouses to lose our individualism in the process," said Cornejo. "For this reason, I think it is important to set personal goals that will enable us to thrive in whatever environment we are in while supporting our spouses."
She knows it can be difficult, and it wasn't easy for her. But she has support and is incredibly grateful for all she received along the way.
"I'm blessed to be surrounded by amazing individuals who believed in me and encouraged me during difficult moments," Cornejo said.
Her family, friends, church community, SNHU advisors, and, most importantly, her husband supported her.
Cornejo is also incredibly grateful to SNHU and Operation Homefront for their partnership and for allowing her to turn her dream into a reality.
"Words will never truly express the gratitude I have for selecting me as the recipient of the scholarship," she said. "It has forever changed my life, and I'll always have pleasant things to say about my time as an SNHU student."
And now, with her degree in hand, she can pursue her passion for serving others and inspire military spouses to continue their education.
"If I can do it, you truly can do it," she said. "It's possible; it is so possible."
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online degree 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
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.