Posts Tagged ‘military spouse’

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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In the spring of 2010, Amanda Blount was a young, expectant, Army wife. Her husband, Army Specialist William Anthony Blount, had secured mid-term R&R so he could witness the birth of his daughter. Tragically, on April 7, Specialist Blount was killed in Mosul, Iraq, when his vehicle was attacked with an IED. He died one month shy of Avery Elizabeth Blount’s birth.

Amanda & Avery Elizabeth Blount



With the loving support of her family, Amanda Blount is pressing forward. As an Army widow and single parent, she decided to pursue her education to ensure a better future for Avery Elizabeth. With the financial assistance of a $3000 Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Amanda is a freshman in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at Pearl River Community College.




Born and raised in Hattiesburg, MS, Amanda says that she has always wanted to give back to her supportive community. Her mother, a nurse, encouraged her to explore areas of study within the medical field and Amanda was soon drawn to the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

“I was captivated by the structures of the body and its ability to recover from disease and injury,” says Amanda. She also explained the mental aspect of physical therapy adding, “Not only does physical therapy help a patient return to previous activity levels, it provides reassurance and the motivation necessary for patients to reach their goals.”

Amanda has excelled academically and plans to continue her education and earn her undergraduate business degree. Describing herself as detail oriented and business-minded, Amanda’s end goal is to manage her own physical therapy office. But for right now, Amanda is focused on her studies and providing the best life possible for her daughter, Avery Elizabeth.

Education has become such a driving force in Amanda’s life that she helped establish the SPC William Anthony Blount Memorial Scholarship at his alma mater, Petal High School. Each year, teachers at Petal High School nominate a senior who demonstrates academic and civic excellence. Amanda explained that the scholarship recipient is always kind, shows eagerness to help others, and is never boastful…qualities that her own humble hero possessed.

In Memory of Specialist William Anthony Blount, United States Army

ThanksUSA is honored to be a part of Amanda’s academic journey and though she has been through much, Amanda says, “I am quite determined. Despite my hardships, I have to do what my husband would want me to do, ‘keep my chin up.’ It’s not easy most of the time, but I have our daughter to motivate me, to give me a reason to keep pushing and make me smile.”

Are you a military spouse considering pursuing your degree? We hope that Amanda’s story has inspired and motivated you! ThanksUSA Scholarship applications are accepted every year from April 1 through May 15 and we encourage you to register for a reminder. We close this week’s Scholarship News blog with a message for the Folds of Honor Foundation from Amanda:

“Thank you for choosing me as a recipient of the Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship. It makes a huge difference to me as I study to become a physical therapist assistant. Thank you for being mindful of those who have served their country. My husband and our family have made the ultimate sacrifice. Again, thank you!”

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Wendy Hepp is pursuing her degree in Early Childhood Education at Urbana University. The recipient of a $3000 Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Wendy shares her educational goals and offers valuable advice to fellow military spouses.

The Hepp Family

Wendy admits that the uncertainty of military life can be quite challenging. When her husband, Jeff, was deployed, she decided to invest in her education. “I was not working and had been considering returning to school for some time. I am very happy with my decision and the timing in which I did so. I had school work to keep me occupied and I think the challenge and time spent on me helped me cope as a single parent while my husband was away,” says Wendy.

Wendy and Jeff are the parents of two beautiful daughters and they are expecting their third child later this spring. Wendy says that parenting led to her interest in Early Childhood Education and volunteering in her children’s classrooms has given her both insight and experience. Upon graduation, Wendy looks forward to becoming an elementary school teacher.

When I learned that Wendy was a military spouse, parent of two, school volunteer, and student (all while expecting baby number three), I knew that she was an incredibly focused woman. I was so inspired by Wendy’s wisdom, that I had to share it with other military families:

“My advice for military spouses is to make goals for yourself and set out to attain them. It is sort of taught that you should put all of your efforts towards your family and spouse, but it is important to remember your own wants and dreams. My husband and children are not getting less of me because I am in school, but maybe even more of me because of all the interesting experiences I am having and the time I am investing in myself.

My life is challenging, but it is also very rewarding. I have a great support system, including a wonderful husband who helps when I need study time or just a mental health break, and a fantastic mother who baby-sits whenever we need help. I could not do it without their help. I must also add that the faculty at Urbana University has been a very big help as well. They are willing to work around my life to help me meet my goals. With this amazing ThanksUSA scholarship, I was able to borrow $1,500 less in school loans and pay for my books for an entire year! This is a tremendous help to me and my husband financially. I will be taking the summer off and spending it with my children and then get back into the swing of things in the fall.

I feel very strongly that we can achieve what we put our minds to. It sounds as if my life should be stressful and hectic, but in reality I am very satisfied and content. We will never know what we are truly made of unless we challenge ourselves. That is the most important lesson I have learned from being a military spouse while my husband was deployed. It is a lesson that is perhaps unique to those of us who have served here at home while our spouses were away, and we should use that lesson to our benefit.”  -Wendy Hepp

Wendy, thank you for the encouragement! I’m confident that you will be able to motivate and inspire your students.  ThanksUSA is proud to assist you in your educational pursuits and looks forward to awarding even more scholarships for the 2010/2011 academic year.  ThanksUSA scholarship applications will be accepted between April 1 and May 15, 2010.  Register for scholarship notification here.  You can also get updates by following ThanksUSA on twitter or becoming our Fan.

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