Veteran Caregiver Awarded Scholarship to Begin MBA

For Military Spouses

Connie Crawford with the text Connie Crawford Operation Homefront Scholarship Recipient

Connie Crawford had been thinking about going back to school for many years, but the timing was never right. As a military spouse, Crawford worked for her local school district as a coordinator for a parent-education program. When her husband Timothy returned from war wounded, she put her career on the back burner and became his primary caregiver.

A decade passed, and Timothy is now in a better place health-wise, allowing Crawford to turn her attention to her own goals once again. “There wasn't any way I was going to be able to apply, attend and excel at any kind of higher education,” said Crawford. “As he has progressed and become more stable, I am now in a position to focus a little more on myself and consider going back to school.”

When a scholarship opportunity arrived, everything seemed to finally begin falling into place. Much to her surprise, Crawford was selected as a $5,000 scholarship recipient by Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). While her journey toward her new goals can begin, it was her experience as a military spouse and caregiver that led her to this opportunity.

Honoring Military Spouses and Caregivers

In celebration of Veterans Day this year, Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that builds strong, stable, and secure military families, partnered with SNHU to honor the spouses and caregivers of wounded veterans, such as Crawford.

“We are so grateful to Southern New Hampshire University for hosting another wonderful Homefront Celebration for members of our Caregiver Support Group, as well for the $5,000 scholarship for one of our very deserving participants,” Quanesha Carman, Operation Homefront’s senior manager of Veteran Caregiver Support. “This special group of individuals often face many challenges, as they put their own interests aside. This event and the scholarship, are a wonderful reward for their unselfish commitment to caring for their wounded veterans."

During this special Veterans Day Homefront Celebration held on Thursday, Nov. 4, Crawford was awarded a $5,000 scholarship to begin her Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.

“It's an honor to be able to work with Operation Homefront in a show of support for such a resilient and dynamic group of people who have had to make their own sacrifices in order to care for their wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans,” said Melissa Escobar-Pereira, a regional manager of Military Alliances at SNHU. “These veteran caregivers deserve the spotlight for all the sacrifices they have made, the trials they have overcome and the grit they have displayed.”

Ryan Day, a TRI CARE Certified Mental Health Counselor and Counseling Clinical Faculty member at SNHU, spoke with the military spouses about the importance of taking time for yourself.

“When mental health support is not sought, veterans and their families face challenges leading to family dysfunction, broken homes, divorce, employment issues, and increased exposure leading to mental illness," said Day.

Day discussed the importance of self-care and how even something simple like listening to music you love or going to get your hair done is important, with many spouses at the event agreeing it can be hard to find time for themselves. Some spouses said that being able to find the time to brush their teeth felt like their self-care for the day

Putting their service member and family first is a common theme for military spouses. Often, like Crawford, their own goals are put on hold while they take care of others.

“When military spouses further their education, it affords them new opportunities to support their families, offers increased financial opportunities, and gives them a sense of meaning by obtaining a degree that better equips them to make their career dream become their reality,” said Day.

Taking Her Business To the Next Level

Crawford and her husband spent the last 10 years working through the VA medical system, pursuing different programs and therapies for her husband across the country to advance his recovery and improve upon his health.

Timothy’s job in the military was to operate and maintain satellite connections and communications for his unit. He was sent home after an explosion left him with both a brain injury and many physical injuries.

“Part of my husband never returned from that deployment. He has a lot of memory loss and behavior changes,” said Crawford. “It's been a long road of recovery with the physical injuries as well, but he has made a lot of progress with everything.”Connie Crawford and her husband Timothy

In between taking her husband to his appointments, Crawford has been cleaning houses for work and for time to herself. “I've found this to be quite therapeutic,” she said. “I feel a sense of accomplishment when I am finished with a house. I've been able to earn some extra money, which makes me feel independent.”

As she began to have more and more clients, she realized she could turn this into a legitimate business and knew going back to school to pursue her MBA in Entrepreneurship was the right move for her.

“I never knew there was such a need for house cleaning! I would like to start my own legitimate business, hire some employees, and do some advertising,” she said. “However, I have no experience in this area and don't even know where to start. I've never navigated the world of business.”

Grateful and Ready To Go

Although Crawford has put others first for many years, she never lost her optimism for what's ahead. She is ready to take on her academic and personal goals.

“Connie Crawford was chosen because of her tenacity during unprecedented times. She pivoted her career path and found a niche that would accommodate her family’s new lifestyle,” said Victoria White, a regional manager of Military Alliances at SNHU. “Resilient and multifaceted are two words that are synonymous with military spouse. Connie embodies both characteristics and continues to pursue her future goals with optimism.”

Crawford couldn’t hide her excitement and gratitude when she was presented with the scholarship. She knows this degree will give her the edge she needs. “It could really allow me to take my cleaning business to the next level, which would not only help me financially but would be great for my personal development," said Crawford.

She plans to start right away, so she can finish her degree at the same time as her youngest daughter, who is graduating with her master's in 2023.

“I'm really looking forward to this time and appreciate the opportunity,” she said. “Thank you, SNHU, for believing in me.”

Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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