Operation Life Transformed Awards 10th Scholarship

By Sharon Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2008 - Operation Life Transformed - a home-front group of the Defense Department's America Supports You program recently awarded its 10th Naval Air Station Lemoore Scholarship of the year.

Six scholarships were awarded at the Barnes and Noble Book Fair Fundraiser and Scholarship Award Ceremony in Fresno, Calif., last month. Two of the six scholarships were sponsored by West Hills College.

Sara Gain received a scholarship for a Microsoft certification course. Gain not only is a military spouse, but also serves as an ombudsman on base.

"I love computers," Gain said. "It's going to be nice to have something to go behind my actual experience. It makes me so much more marketable in the job force. Any kind of competitive edge you can get today, we especially need," she said.

Krystal Renteria's scholarship will cover a medical coding course. Earning the certificate will help her family, "110 percent," she said.

"It's going to help out so much with everything, [including] our boys' education," she said.

West Hills College and Operation Life Transformed started this nationwide alliance and scholarship program this year. West Hills College Chancellor Frank Gornick and Dean of Learning Resources Susan Whitener attended the award ceremony.

Gornick said the partnership between the school and Operation Life Transformed was natural.

"We often think of the needs of the active-duty person," he said. "We don't always necessarily remember the individuals that are at home. Today was a great reminder, seeing the moms going up to get awards with kids in their arms."

Whitener oversees the online programs at West Hills College.

"The opportunity to do these courses online through Operation Life Transformed is incredible in the way that it's flexible for these spouses who are parents and these caregivers, because they can do it at their leisure," Whitener said.

Shennel McGaughey received one of the scholarship sponsored by West Hills. McGaughey's scholarship was the 10th awarded by Operation Life Transformed for NAS Lemoore. Her scholarship is for a medical assistant certification program. McGaughey is a military spouse and a caregiver for her autistic son.

"I had been looking into schools," McGaughey said. "I was telling a neighbor about the colleges out here and how expensive tuition is and how I couldn't do it online with my son and daughter," she said. "[My neighbor] told me about Operation Life Transformed, and here I am. Amazing!"

After awarding its 10th NAS Lemoore Scholarship of the year, Operation Life Transformed officials now hope to award two dozen by the end of the year.

"These scholarships are so important to the empowerment of our spouses, especially in our location, where there are few employment opportunities to offer," said Kimberly Marrero, chief operating officer and co-founder of Operation Life Transformed. "Once awarded, it opens a whole new world of possibilities for them, not only for employment, but [also for] the freedom for virtual and portable independence -- the key and vital ingredient for quality of life for our military spouses and caregivers -- and that makes it very powerful."

Operation Life Transformed was started in February 2007. The home-front group targets caregivers of veterans wounded in war and military spouses. The organization provides funding for online training programs and certifications for home-based careers.

America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

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