Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Family members on education path

by Sgt. Shameka Edwards

4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

“Families are thriving; they are not just trying to get through a deployment,” said Col. Todd Heussner, commander, Task Force Ivy, 4th Infantry Division. “They are doing positive things while their Soldiers are deployed.”

Heussner said he wants Family members to T.H.R.I.V.E. throughout the deployment.

T.H.R.I.V.E. is the acronym for the program established by Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general U.S. Division-North and 4th Inf. Div., that stands for training, health, resilience, improve quality of life, volunteer and education.

“Although education is one element of T.H.R.I.V.E.; education affects them all,” said Heussner. “If you are educated then mentally and physically you feel better, you are more resilient because you know what is out there and how to deal with things because you have been challenged,” said Heussner.

“We would like more Soldiers and Family members to get involved and understand the resources available to them and for them to invest in helping themselves and their Families. We hope to create a positive momentum showing Family members and Soldiers examples of educational successes and let them know that they can accomplish the same success,” said Heussner.

“It is also important to understand that your spouse does not have to be deployed for you to work toward obtaining an education,” added Heussner.

Andrea Cotton is finishing her second year at Columbia College as a distant learning student to obtain a degree in education while her husband, Sgt. Randall Cotton, Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.

“The reason for furthering my education is so I can feel better about myself, to set an example for my children and be able to relate to them as well as be a role model for them as well as myself,” said Cotton.

“I would also like to have a better knowledge of the fields in which I choose to work in. I have been working in the education field for some time now, and obtaining my teacher’s assistant certification was my first step to wanting to take my education to the next level,” she said.

Cotton said she had help with education expenses by using the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program.

Natasha Bergeron, a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, is working on a pharmaceutical degree, while her husband, Sgt.

Derek Bergeron, 4th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., is deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“The military has been a huge help for me to get a degree,” said Bergeron.

Bergeron works as a certifying official for the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs at UCCS through a work study program. She was awarded a scholarship through Army Emergency Relief, who has two programs – the Spouse Education Assistance Program and the Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program. Bergeron said she also received funds for her education through the MyCAA program.

Bergeron said her husband was selected to be in the Top 10 Percent, a program designed by Heussner to recognize Soldiers excelling in their individual units. She noted her husband will begin working on a degree in history when he redeploys.

Dana Rocha, director, UCCS veteran and military student affairs, said the university has roughly 250 Army spouses attending UCCS this semester.

Rocha said the university has added many programs to help servicemembers and their Families that can be found at http://www.uccs.edu/~military/index.htm. Rocha also said the university is a part of the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, has been recognized as a military-friendly school for two years and is a part of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Army Division.

Ursula Miller, operations manager at the Fort Carson Education Center, said she has heard positive feedback about the T.H.R.I.V.E. program from the different school representatives.

“They told me it was worthwhile, something different that mixed things up with a lot of interaction and participation that got everyone engaged,” said Miller.

She said the education center assists Soldiers and Family members on a first-come, first-served basis. Miller also said that staff members can provide Family readiness group briefings, which can be set up by calling the center.

Miller stressed the fact Soldiers and their Family members have the opportunity to attend Colorado higher learning institutions at an in-state rate.

“For fiscal year 2010 we had about 3,230 students who requested in-state tuition and received over $4 million in savings,” said Miller.

In fiscal 2010, the five on-post institutions offered 130 classes of which 3,400 students took 12,000 classes and $5.8 million was financed through the Tuition Assistance Program. Miller said about 500 Fort Carson spouses take advantage of the MyCAA program and have been awarded $1.4 million in assistance.

Cheri Arfsten, director of Military and Veterans Programs at Pikes Peak Community College, said the college has various programs for servicemembers and their Family members to help them reach their education goals.

Arfsten noted that PPCC is not in the Yellow Ribbon program because its tuition is lower than the tuition set for the state by the GI Bill.

Arfsten said the college, which has a full service office located at the Fort Carson Education Center, has about 700 active-duty servicemembers, 2,500 veterans and more than 400 spouses currently attending.

“We are a big military college and we are aware of the challenges Soldiers and their spouses can face and our staff is here to help,” said Arfsten.

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