Posts Tagged ‘Elementary Education’


The ThanksUSA team congratulates Army dependent and ThanksUSA scholarship recipient, Nicole Cook, on her recent graduation from Stevenson Unviersity! The daughter of Sergeant 1st Class, David Cook, U.S. Army (Ret), Nicole has received a total of $9,000 in Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarships to help fund her elementary education studies. Nicole is eager to begin her career as a teacher and we’re happy to report that she will be joining the faculty of Carroll County Public Schools.


Nicole’s name may be familiar to ThanksUSA supporters because of her assistance with ThanksUSA outreach events, receptions, and fundraisers. Most recently, she represented ThanksUSA scholarship recipients at the 5th annual ThanksUSA Golf Tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Prior to the event, Nicole appeared with ThanksUSA Chairman and CEO, Bob Okun, on Let’s Talk Live to speak about ThanksUSA’s mission and the golf fundraiser.

Please join us in wishing Nicole and all recent graduates well with their budding careers or continued educational journeys…our outstanding scholars deserve our support and we hope to bring you more highlights from the Class of 2012!

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Sometimes, life just seems to get in the way…especially when you’re “married to the military” and raising three children. This week’s featured scholar, Christine Carenza, began her collegiate journey 20 years ago. Now, with the help of a $3,000 Intelligent Decisions Inc/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Christine is looking forward to completing her B.S. in Elementary Education by year’s end.

Christine with husband, CMSgt Joe Carenza


Christine’s husband, Chief Master Sergeant Joe Carenza, USAF, has been serving our country for the past twenty-eight years. During that time, the family has moved ten times and Christine has attended six colleges. With each of these institutions requiring different undergraduate course work, Christine found herself losing valuable credits every time she moved. Then, at the recommendation of a coworker, Christine looked into an online degree program at Grand Canyon University.

Christine was relieved to find a school that would move with her no matter where the family was stationed. “It’s so much more convenient, especially for military spouses, because you can complete your degree from start to finish even if you get transferred overseas,” she added.


This Fall, Christine will complete her student teaching requirements in her local school district and be qualified to teach grades k-8. Preferably, she would like to work with a fourth or fifth grade level explaining, “They are really eager learners at that point and I feel that I can really reach them and help them learn.”

Christine hasn’t always been interested in pursuing a teaching degree. Her post-secondary education began when an employer offered her tuition reimbursement. She was working as a secretary at the time and was able to earn her AA in Business Administration. She had also taken pre-requisites for a nursing degree, but a move overseas prevented her from continuing her nursing studies. Always eager to be involved with her children, Christine began working at her children’s school which inspired her to earn her B.S. in Elementary Education. She explains, “I always idolized teachers and when I started volunteering with students, I realized, ‘I can do this!’ and I began setting my goals.”

As a future teacher, Christine has already gained experience as a teacher’s aide for preschool and kindergarten students and has observed at a local parochial school. As the mother of three sons aged 11, 14, and 19, Christine has been volunteering in multiple classrooms since the mid 90’s. In addition to her studies, she remains actively involved with her Church, military spouse groups, and  volunteers with Boy Scouts.

The Carenza’s oldest son, Matthew, began college in 2011 and Christine was initially concerned about the financial burden of paying tuition for two family members. “It’s so nice not to have to worry so much. Receiving the Intelligent Decisions Inc/ThanksUSA Scholarship made it possible for me to continue my education.”

Joe, Christopher, Christine, Tony, & Matthew Carenza

Although the financial assistance was certainly a contributing factor to Christine’s continuing education, the real driving force behind her success has always been her family. “Without their support I would never have been able to get this far in my education,” she says.

The entire ThanksUSA team is grateful to our donors and sponsors for helping ThanksUSA support deserving students like Christine. We remind all potential applicants that 2012-2013 ThanksUSA Scholarship applications will be accepted online from April 1 through May 15 and you are encouraged to register for an email reminder here.

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Army dependent Amber Birden received a $3,000 Altria Group/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA to continue her Elementary Education studies at Fayetteville State University. Taking inspiration from her family, Amber plans to become an elementary school science teacher who will prepare her students for a life of learning.

Throughout her life, Amber has witnessed her mother’s selfless dedication to children. Seeing her mother’s impact on young students motivated Amber to major in elementary education. Amber chose a concentration in biology and explains, “I believe science is essential for all children to learn and will prepare them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as adults. Also, as an elementary school teacher I plan to set the foundation for their academic success.”

As an Army dependent, much of Amber’s early learning took place in Department of Defense Dependent Schools. Since she is attending FSU, Amber has the opportunity to student teach at nearby Ft. Bragg. She believes that her past experiences will help her connect with military dependent students, especially those dealing with deployments or relocation. Ultimately, Amber plans to earn her Master’s of Education and pursue a career overseas in DoDDS Europe and Pacific Schools.

For now, Amber is busy challenging herself academically. As a Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program Scholar, Amber conducts independent research through the Institute of Undergraduate Research. She is also a member of the FSU Honors Program and Honors Council. She has served as an Orientation Leader and Supplemental Instructor, and is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and Bronco Women. As a Chancellor’s scholar, Amber also experienced a study abroad in Spain.

Although Amber is clearly an accomplished young woman, she is quick to praise her parents for instilling the values that have led her to this point. Amber says, “My father served in the Army for over 20 years. Through this time my parents instilled the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, and to live by these values every day. I believe that what my father learned in the Army is a part of the reason for my success in school and my motivation to excel academically.”

Amber plans to take those values to the classroom and adds, “Growing up as a military child, I was exposed to many different cultures and had the opportunity to meet people of different nationalities, making me unbiased to different cultures. This life experience was the foundation of me wanting to promote diversity. I plan to use the skills instilled in me to help me become an effective and engaging educator.”

With clearly defined goals and the drive to succeed, Amber will surely continue to achieve academic success and her future students will be lucky to have such a devoted teacher. ThanksUSA scholarship applications for the 2012-2013 academic year will be accepted online at http://www.ThanksUSA.org between April 1st and May 15th, 2012. Potential applicants can register for an email reminder here.

To conclude this week’s Scholarship News blog, Amber explains how the ThanksUSA scholarship has positively affected her education:

“Receiving the Altria Group/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA has allowed me to focus more on my studies, take out fewer loans, and not worry about the financial burden of college.  Thank you for having this program for dependents of service members of all branches of the military. I am grateful to be a recipient of a ThanksUSA Scholarship!”

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As a child, Whitney Benevides had amazing teachers who offered both inspiration and direction. Now, in her senior year of Elementary Education studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate, Whitney is looking forward to being an amazing teacher herself. To complete her studies, Whitney was awarded a $3000 EMC Corp/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA.

Whitney, Joey, and Ava Benevides

Whitney has always had a desire to help children and a trip to Africa with the Youth With A Mission organization helped shape her educational goals. Whitney worked closely with children left orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Getting to know the children opened her heart and her mind. She realized that teaching young children was what she was meant to do. “It was heartbreaking to leave children who faced such loss. Photos just can’t convey what they live with,” reports Whitney.

Upon earning her BA, Whitney plans to work in the public school system. She has developed an understanding of the different learning styles of children and plans to use appropriate strategies to reach every child. Whitney explains, “What’s most important is the delivery of education. We need to move away from the lectures and make learning more interactive, more hands on, for students.”

Whitney believes that working within the public school system will allow her to help children who may need the most educational assistance. “My main goal is for each of my students to have the opportunity to live their dreams.  I have the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives and I will not take this privilege lightly,” says Whitney.

Although Whitney is a very outgoing and dedicated student, she is facing one of the most challenging times for a military spouse – the deployment of her husband, Airman First Class Joseph Benevides, United States Air Force.

Like most military spouses, Whitney is surviving deployment by keeping busy. She regularly volunteers with Vive Church and is mentoring a fellow education major. She has also put her studies to good use by working with struggling readers through Target Read and volunteering with Junior Achievement…all while maintaining a perfect GPA! She is also caregiver to Ava, the puppy that Joey gave her as a deployment companion.

The ThanksUSA team shares Whitney’s belief that every student deserves a great education and we are eager to see her impact the lives of students. In closing, Whitney shares her appreciation to our supporters:

“The EMC Corp/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA has lifted both a financial burden and my spirits. As a rising educator, having the support of my community is essential for my effectiveness in the classroom. I am eternally grateful for the generosity shown to me through this scholarship. Thanks to your support, in less than a year I will obtain my teaching degree and begin a new journey of transforming the lives of students.”

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Jessica Raye Doak





Army dependent Jessica Doak received a $3000 Folds of Honor/ThanksUSA Scholarship to begin her studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage. where she majors in Elementary Education. This week, Jessica discusses her plans to combine her love of the outdoors with a rewarding career as an elementary school teacher.






Jessica’s father, MSG John H Doak, U.S. Army (Ret), served as a Chaplain Assistant for 23 years. Upon his retirement, the family settled in Alaska and Jessica soon began exploring. “I have hiked Hatcher’s Pass on back packing trips, been on float trips, climbed Matanuska Peak, Pioneer Peak, ice climbed in the Thunderbird Falls area, and enjoyed biking and kayaking in the Valley.  I believe Alaska has many things to offer and I hope to be able to share that love for the outdoors as part of my teaching and working with children,” says Jessica.

She also believes that her experiences growing up as a military child helps her relate to children who come from a variety of backgrounds, families, and locations. Throughout her father’s career, Jessica traveled extensively and witnessed the poverty that exists around the world. She explains, “I was also exposed to the poverty in other countries and was able to be part of projects that reached out to the needy.  This experience caused me to have a great appreciation for our countries’ standard of living and has given me a desire to help those who are less fortunate than us.  I believe God has blessed me significantly and I wish to share that blessing and His love with others.”

Jessica looks forward to earning her degree and teaching, but she is already involved with many children’s activities. Whether she is serving as a camp counselor, nanny, or a group youth leader at Lazy Mountain Bible Church, Jessica finds great enjoyment in working with children. “My love for children and a desire to see them learn inspired me to pursue a degree in elementary education. I believe I can have a positive impact on the lives of children.”

Jessica, the ThanksUSA team also believes that you will have a positive impact and we look forward to seeing you achieve your academic goals. ThanksUSA will be accepting scholarship applications for the 2011/2012 academic year from April 1 until May 15, 2011. Visit our website for eligibility requirements and to sign up for a reminder email. We close this week with a message from Jessica to Folds of Honor:

“Growing up as a military child taught me to honor and respect our freedom and how much our soldiers play a part in keeping it. Receiving the Folds of Honor/ ThanksUSA Scholarships has been a huge blessing and I am so very thankful that I was chosen to receive it.  This has allowed me to focus on my education.  Although I still work part time, the scholarship has helped me keep that in balance and has freed me to continue my volunteer work with children.”

You can support students like Jessica by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation.

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Since most of the nation is being held in the icy grips of old man winter, I think it’s quite refreshing to meet someone who is earning her degree in a place that most consider paradise…Honolulu, Hawaii! As I write this, it is currently 28° F here in Hampton Roads, VA. The weather in Honolulu? A beautiful 77° F. Yes, there is a chance for rain in Honolulu, but at least it’s warm!

Weather aside, I’m pleased to introduce Tia Alove Hicks who is earning her degree on the beautiful campus of Chaminade University of Honolulu.  With the assistance of a $3000 Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Tia will graduate with her BS in Elementary Education by the end of this year. Tia expresses her gratitude for her scholarship saying, “Receiving the Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship has made it possible for me to arrive closer to my goal of completing my degree. The financial burden of college especially as an adult providing for a family can often times be overwhelming and can make your goal seem out of reach. Receiving the Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship has freed my mind from worry over finances so I can focus on my studies.”

Tia Alove Hicks

Tia is a proud Army spouse and mother of three school aged children.  Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Jason A Hicks, US Army, has recently returned from his third combat tour and is currently Food Advisor for all Hawaii based Army Units. How does Tia manage school, raise her children and support her husband’s military career? She relies on a cooperative support system of family, friends, and neighbors.  She adds, “whoever you find around you that you can trust – utilize them and be sure to return the favors! Oh and don’t forget; time management and casseroles!”  Sound advice for any student or military spouse.

Asked about her academic inspiration, Tia enthusiastically responded, “My children have been my biggest inspiration to study Elementary Education. I have always been an active parent and a big part of that has been volunteering in their classrooms. Being in the classroom and seeing first hand the many light bulb moments in the students has been a very rewarding experience. It’s like seeing your child take his/her first steps! Exciting.”

Even more exciting is Tia’s approach to teaching: My goal as a teacher is to make certain that all of my students are engaged in their personal learning experience.  If students are not engaged then they are most likely not learning. I don’t want to be the type of teacher that force-feeds information into the students and expect them to regurgitate that information on a pen and paper test. This to me is not teaching or learning.  I plan to first create a safe environment for my students, not just the physical environment but the mental environment as well. If students feel as if they will be ridiculed or laughed at for wrong answers they will not want to participate. My job is to encourage participation. I also plan to incorporate project based learning, this hands on type of learning is not just beneficial to students but fun as well. I want my students to enjoy learning. If I can instill in them a love of learning then I will have accomplished something.

Any student would benefit from the learning environment that Tia plans to teach in. ThanksUSA wishes Tia continued academic excellence and we look forward to an update from her first classroom. Keep up the good work Tia and send warm thoughts to all of our readers!

You can support students like Tia by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation.

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Think about your favorite elementary school teacher. What made him or her special? Was she patient? Exciting? Maybe he energized the classroom with games or physical activity. No matter what made that teacher special to you, chances are high that they had a real passion for teaching and seeing you learn. This week’s featured scholarship recipient, Nicole Cook, hopes to convey that same passion to elementary school students of her own. The recipient of a $3000 Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Nicole is an Elementary Education major at Stevenson University.

Nicole Cook

Nicole discovered her passion for teaching during high school. She was always helping friends and classmates with homework and soon realized that she was skilled at helping people learn. She also discovered that she had the necessary qualities to influence even the youngest students. Nicole explains, “I had a love for working with children. During my senior year of high school I was an intern at Havre De Grace Elementary School where I worked with kindergarteners and first graders.” Nicole helped the kindergarten class with reading and assisted the first graders with math skills. As she gained teaching experience, she was also able to see the results of the students’ efforts through testing. “After being in the classroom for the entire year, I realized how much I wanted to work with students,” says Nicole.

As the daughter of a career soldier, Nicole has faced many military moves. She shared that the most difficult aspect of these is always leaving behind friends. “The hardest move was back to the United States after living in Germany for 7 ½ years,” she says. Her father, David, served as a Mechanical Instructor with the U.S. Army for 20 years. Before retiring in March 2009, he served at duty stations around the world including Korea, Bosnia, Republic of Georgia, and Germany to name a few.

Upon her graduation in 2012, Nicole plans to pursue her Master’s in Education. As a member of ACEI (Association for Childhood Education International), Nicole is an educational advocate for all children, believing that every child in every nation deserves access to a quality education. Nicole feels that she will serve students best at the elementary level. She looks forward to preparing students to take full advantage of their own educational opportunities.

Nicole wishes to express her thanks to the Folds of Honor Foundation for their generous contribution to ThanksUSA, saying, “Receiving this scholarship has helped so much. When students first get accepted into a college, the first thought is often ‘How am I going to pay for school?’ By receiving this scholarship, I was able to focus more on my studies and worry less about the financial burden of paying for college.”

ThanksUSA is proud to support Nicole’s educational pursuits and we extend our sincerest Thank-You to David Cook for his 20 years of military service. Your tax-deductible contribution to ThanksUSA will provide scholarships to military dependents like Nicole. ThanksUSA Scholarship Applications for the 2010/2011 academic year will be accepted between April 1 and May 15, 2010, so please show your support and DONATE today!

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