OC grants opportunities to military spouses

Debby Dyer's daughter and her money go to Boise State. But that won't stop Dyer from entering the classroom herself come January. Dyer, a military spouse, is taking advantage of a pilot program that offers grant money to military spouses to be trained in high-growth, portable fields.

Dyer's program of choice is the Military Career Transition Program through Old Dominion University, which will put a master's degree and teaching certification in Dyer's back pocket in 18 months.

Dyer works part-time at Olympic College, which is one of the eight colleges nationwide to be part of the pilot program, funded through the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor.

The college is participating in an initiative of the Department of Defense and Department of Labor to provide funding for spouses to take courses in high-growth, portable fields. Programs funded by the initiative, dubbed the Career Advancement Account (CAA), include finance, health care, education, technology and trade industries. The CAA will fund up to $3,000 each year for educational expenses such as tuition, fees and books.

"Because of their constant relocations, it's difficult for military families to fit into a community and get the lay of the land quickly," said

Wendy Miles, director of military education and training at Olympic College. "It helps if they have skills that are portable, like nursing, teaching or the trades — things they can do in another community."

Another obstacle many military spouses face is the financial burden of attending college.

"Especially if they're single income, if the spouse is in the military and they're raising a family, it can be a challenge for the spouse to go to school," Miles said, adding that the CAA is exactly what some spouses need to get on the career track.

"I have a daughter at Boise State, which is taking all of our money at this point," Dyer said. "This program will help me to get into a full-time profession."

Spouses of active-duty military members E-1 to E-5 and 0-1 to 0-3 are eligible for the CAA. The active-duty service member must be stationed at a Naval Base Kitsap command and have at least one year remaining at that command for their spouse to be eligible.

While Olympic College is leading the charge, other schools with satellite campuses are able to participate.

"The whole process is pretty easy and painless," said Dyer, who's husband is a lieutenant in the Navy stationed at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She had to be pre-screened through WorkSource, a state-wide organization that offers job training and job search assistance. WorkSource offers informational sessions on Mondays at Jackson Park military housing.

Olympic College offers classes at campuses in Poulsbo, Bremerton and Shelton, in addition to Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) locations and Naval Hospital Bremerton,

For more information contact Olympic College's academic advisors who are specially trained to meet the needs of military families. Kate Easton can be reached at NBK-Bremerton at (360) 377-8178, and Nancy Buck can be reached at the NBK-Bangor at (360) 697-3656.

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