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America Supports You: Group Helps Family Members With Education

By Jamie Findlater Special to American Forces Press Service    

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2008 - Military family members looking to further their education have a friend in a support organization called Thanks USA.  “So many spouses appreciate the opportunity to go back to school and finish their education,” explained Carolyn Ferek, Thanks USA's board secretary, said in an “ASY Live” interview on BlogTalkRadio.

“ASY Live” is part of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. Thanks USA is an America Supports You supporter.   Ferek said the focus of Thanks USA is different from that of many other scholarship-based organizations, because while it does focus on providing assistance to military dependents, it also uniquely gears a lot of its funding toward spouses.   “It's not just for dependents,” she said. “It's for spouses, because we feel like so many times the spouses are at home taking care of the families, and they are forced to put their career on hold.”

When the organization was founded, Ferek explained, she could not find many organizations that focused on providing for spouses and dependents of current servicemembers based on their need. “Some offered them to military families if there was a death or an injury, but ours isn't like that,” she said. “We offer it as a need-based scholarship; we have educational scholarships for any branch of the military for college, technical and vocational schools.”

Ferek cited a couple of people the organization has helped.   “I remember one person that wrote to us saying that she would be the first one in her family to have a college education thanks to our program,” Ferek said. “Another woman we helped down in Florida had just had a lung transplant, and still really wanted to go to college. She was just trying to get herself healthy, but she was just so positive and optimistic about her future and wanting to make a difference. So many of the scholarship winners want to give back to the community.”

The organization has raised nearly $4 million and we has awarded more than 1,350 scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars. “We have given scholarships to military families all across the United States in all 50 states,” Ferek said.   (Jamie Findlater, host of “ASY Live,” works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)     

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