"[The faculty and staff] allowed me to continue my education knowing the hardships of being a military spouse. The professors worked with me and never gave up on me when deployments occurred or when my family had to change duty stations."
In 2018, Nohelia Suce, a psychology major, was nominated and chosen as the Washington state National Guard base winner for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) competition. Suce was one of twenty-four nominees within the National Guard category and attended the MSOY ceremony in Washington, D.C. last spring, where she met President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Suce has also been invited to Washington, D.C. for the 2019 MSOY Week in May.
During the course of the MSOY competition, Suce discovered that one of the skills she’d developed at Saint Martin’s served her well. “One thing I learned that I couldn’t do before coming to Saint Martin’s was speaking in front of people,” she said. “Many professors challenged me. But speaking to students gave me the courage to get out of my cocoon, and that helped me in the Military Spouse of the Year competition. Saint Martin’s gave me the opportunity to grow, not just as a student, but to be in the real world and demonstrate who I am and what I’m capable of.”
Suce found Saint Martin’s when she, her husband, Junior, and their family were stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2012. She said she was looking for a nearby college or university that had a psychology program and that offered military financial assistance—and Saint Martin’s fit exactly what she was seeking.
What Suce discovered at Saint Martin’s was a community that was willing to be flexible for military spouses like her. “With my husband being deployed or going off for training, the professors at Saint Martin’s helped me out—not just academically. The professors worked with me one-on-one to help me out. Understanding that there’s difficulties, and we try, as spouses, to have everything under control when our husbands are deployed. What I most enjoyed [about Saint Martin’s] was the hope that’s given to military families, the understanding of the situation.”
Suce made special mention of Michael Butler, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, who worked closely with her to make sure she was able to finish an important class during her final semester—even after she and her family had been transferred to Naval Station Everett. Suce said she also received extraordinary help from Jennifer Jamison, an instructor for one of her online psychology courses, and from William Jackson, who encouraged her to bring her two children with her on a day when she was due to deliver a presentation for a 20th century European history class. “He helped me out so much,” Suce said. “I did my presentation in front of my kids. Today, my kids still remember it.”
The MSOY recognition that Suce received was due to her volunteer work, hosting family events on base and ceremonies for commanders. In May 2018, Suce took her volunteerism to the next level and started a nonprofit, Washington National Guard Military Spouse Network, which recently assisted families who did not have enough food on account of the federal government shutdown.
Suce used to teach in Clover Park School District, located in JBLM and Lakewood, before she and her family moved north to Marysville, and she recently started working as a substitute teacher in the Arlington School District. Suce spoke about her ambitions for the future. “I would like to teach high school students Romance languages—Italian, French and Spanish—as a full-time teacher and I’d like to teach AP Spanish. I have a passion for languages, and being able to communicate in different languages is so amazing.”
Recently, after her husband was transferred to the Marysville Reserve Center, Suce was appointed Family Readiness Lead there, and in that role she will help create events for military families.
Suce said she was so grateful to the military-friendly community at Saint Martin’s University. “[The faculty and staff] allowed me to continue my education knowing the hardships of being a military spouse. The professors worked with me and never gave up on me when deployments occurred or when my family had to change from duty station.” Suce completed her degree in psychology in December 2018 and will walk at Commencement in May 2019.