Military Spouse Receives Scholarship to Finish Business Degree

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Taylor Crawford and the text Operation Homefront Scholarship Recipient

When Taylor Crawford was in high school, her senior superlative was “most likely to never leave Greenville,” her hometown in North Carolina. As a homebody, she believed it.

It wasn’t until she started dating her now-husband, Jay – the same boy who left notes on her desk in middle school – that she realized just how wrong that prediction was. At 20-years-old, Crawford left her local college and married into the military. The couple moved nearly 1,000 miles away from their hometown to Mississippi, where they are stationed with the U.S. Navy. 

Nine years of marriage, five deployments and two children later, Crawford is ready to focus on herself again – particularly on her education. With the help of a scholarship to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), she will do just that. 

“It is so exciting and such a blessing,” she said. “I cannot wait to get started.”

Crawford is the 26th military spouse to receive a full-tuition scholarship for an online college degree program at SNHU in partnership with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit committed to building strong, stable and secure military families.

"Together, Operation Homefront and SNHU believe military spouses deserve to be celebrated, as they too, serve our country,” said Jill Eskin-Smith, the vice president of corporate and foundation partnerships at Operation Homefront. “Awarding full-tuition scholarships to SNHU allows us to jointly recognize spouses who do so much on the homefront and inspires those, whose education may have previously been put on hold, to pursue their aspirations."

Although having an in-person Homefront Celebration wasn’t possible amid a pandemic, the organizers felt it was important to continue awarding scholarships. The virtual format opened the opportunity to military spouses nationwide, instead of in a localized area.

"SNHU and Operation Homefront need to continue this initiative during COVID because we know that better days will come," said Dr. Kendra Thomas, regional director of military initiatives at SNHU. "When they do, military spouses such as Taylor will be better prepared to enter the world of work, stay competitive and have the confidence to pursue their goals." 

Back to Business

Jay and Taylor Crawford

Although Crawford returned to school, both in-person and online, several times since getting married, the demands of the military, working full-time and then becoming a first-time mother made the time commitment challenging. She put her education on hold for several years, but now she’s ready to re-prioritize it for herself and her family. 

“Not that 30 is old by any means, but I’ll turn 30 next year. I have two babies. It’s time for me to do something for me because when you’re married into the military, you kind of become, like, a shadow of yourself,” Crawford said. “... You move for them. You leave jobs for them. You leave your family for them. I just decided it was time for me.”

With this determination, she is on track to be the first in her family to earn a four-year degree – a BS in Business Administration.

Citing strong leadership skills in her scholarship application, she knows if she has the opportunity, she can play an important role in business success. Crawford left the workforce when her daughter, Addy, was born, and she knows earning a degree will help her re-establish her career. “I’ve been a stay at home mom since 2014, so I definitely do want to open up more doors for me and be able to get back out there, and ... bring in my own income for our family,” she said. 

In future-proofing herself, she hopes to support her family financially for a while, so when her husband retires, he has the same opportunity to be home with their children. “He has missed out on so much,” she said, mentioning deployments and training. “... When I had my son (Grady), he was on the other side of the world.”

Although the military lifestyle can be challenging at times, Crawford said it’s very rewarding, especially when her family reunites after a deployment. “Seeing your spouse at homecoming – you’ve never felt so proud of them,” she said.

Finishing for Family

Taylor Crawford with her husband, Jay, and children, Addy and Grady.After learning she was the scholarship winner, she called her parents first. “My mom was just like me – emotional,” she said. As a child, Crawford saw how her mother struggled to return to the workforce without a college education, and knows her parents want better for her.  

“I think for both my parents, their biggest fear was me never finishing school,” she said. “So to hear about this opportunity, they were super excited, and, you know, kept telling me how proud they were.”

Returning to school is important for Crawford now more than ever. Her stepfather, who played the role of her father-figure, was recently diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. “I know I want to at least be in school while he is still with us,” she wrote in her application. “If he can see me graduate, that would be even better.”   

This fall, Crawford will re-enter school as her daughter begins her educational journey in kindergarten. While she knows it’ll be challenging at times to balance her responsibilities, she wants to show her children what’s possible with hard work and determination. In particular, she hopes to inspire her daughter to dream big. “I never want my daughter to feel like she just has to be a mom in life,” Crawford said. “... It’s okay to work and be a mom.” 

It is the perfect time to focus on herself, too, knowing her husband won’t deploy for another two years – the longest they will be together in one house yet. “I know I have his support, and, you know, he says whatever he can do to help me, he’ll be there,” she said. With parents and in-laws back in North Carolina, she’s especially grateful to have him home and available to help care for their children when she focuses on coursework.

“The journey hasn’t always been easy, deployments are hard, having him miss things like the birth of a child is very hard, but it’s helped to shape who I am today. I am stronger than I ever realized,” Crawford said. “Now I’m ready to finish finding myself – starting with finishing up school and having a career for myself. I’m so thankful for this opportunity.”

Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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