Military Spouse Fellowship Program Profiles
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The FINRA Foundation has awarded more than 1,360 Fellowships to military spouses across the globe to help them earn their financial counselor accreditation. Learn how these professionals are using their training and experience to serve the military community, while honing portable skills for a career in financial counseling.
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Heather Baker (Keller), Texas
Heather says the skills she received through the Military Spouse Fellowship Program helped her family get their finances in order. Heather worked with military families while employed at Consumer Credit Counseling Service, where she started out as a volunteer to fulfill the fellowship's requirement for practicum hours. She was later promoted to branch director and, after completing the fellowship, to state area director of education. She now coaches other Fellows as an employee of AFCPE. "If you are in a tough financial situation today, it’s important to focus on getting out of it," Heather said. "But, don’t forget to dream and plan for tomorrow." Read more.
La Tawnya Belén, Norfolk, Virginia
Since earning her accreditation, La Tawnya has opened her own financial firm, which provides financial counseling, training and education to many military families and veterans. Earning accreditation has given her the self-confidence and pride to work in the best interests of military servicemembers and their families, and has reinforced her family’s focus on saving. "The backbone of our freedom rests on those who fight everyday so we all can have better lives," La Tawnya said. "Supporting the military by helping them to build stronger financial futures is the least I can do." Read more.
Shay Cook, Odenton, Maryland
Shay "pays it forward" each day at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Work-Life where, as the Chief of the Family Services Division, she oversees several family service programs, such as Personal Financial Management, Child Development Services, Deployment, Ombudsman, Relocation, School Liaison, Special Needs, and Transition for the entire Coast Guard. Helping servicemembers repair their credit is one of Shay's specialties. One resource she uses with her clients is the free FICO® score available to servicemembers and their families through SaveAndInvest.org, which allows them to see where their credit score stands. Shay has found that the fellowship has given her the information she needs to provide great service to her clients—and has reinforced her personal financial savvy. "The FINRA Foundation's Military Spouse Fellowship Program has given me the information I need to provide great service to my clients in the area of financial readiness," Shay said. Read more.
Andia Dinesen, Northern Virginia
Andia Dinesen, a graduate of the 2010 class, made mistakes when it came to personal finances and learned from them. With this background, and a passion for helping military families, she knew the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program would be a perfect fit. "There is such a need for military families to be supported in so many different ways, and getting my accreditation was another way for me to support them and have a career," she said. Andia is now Vice President for Communications and Operations for the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA), a not-for-profit association of banks operating on military installations and banks not located on military installations but serving military customers. Read more.
Gina Duffy, Springfield, Virginia
Gina, a former Captain in the Air Force, has always had an active interest in financial matters. She feels the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship has given her even more credibility in her field and the ability to use her skills to help the military families. After receiving her accreditation, Gina opened her own personal finance practice and works with Military Healthnet, providing one-on-one counseling and financial readiness training to deploying members. "This fellowship allowed me to integrate two of my passions—teaching very basic financial concepts and helping military families." Read more.
Kimberly Eng, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Kimberly is a financial readiness specialist/counselor with Army Community Service at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She believes a program like the Military Spouse Fellowship Program can provide military spouses with accreditation that will always be in demand in the military and civilian world. She uses the budget techniques she learned through the program to manage her family’s finances. “When you are a military spouse, you’re constantly moving, constantly changing,” Kimberly said. “This certification is invaluable—you can take it with you anywhere and use it wherever you go.” Read More.
Shin Yi Fulton, Killeen, Texas
Shin Yi, a native of Taiwan, moved with her husband to the U.S. and needed to figure out what to do for a career. She proved to have a particular interest in the areas of counseling and financial management after taking a career assessment at the Employment Readiness Center on Fort Hood. The FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship Program allowed her to gain portable skills and turn these interests into a career path, as well as helping others which is very important to her. "I enjoy working with soldiers. It's so rewarding when I can help them get out of financial troubles and I'm ready to learn a lot more to help soldiers learn about their finances." Read more.
Kimberly Henne, Fort Meade, Maryland
Working for the U.S. Army, 1st Recruiting Brigade located on Fort Meade in Maryland, Kimberly teaches military service members and their families—from 10-year olds to service members preparing to retire—about personal money management. With years as a military spouse, Kimberly understands the importance of financial stability for military families. When a peer first told her about the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program, Kimberly immediately applied. She found the program to be very user friendly and flexible. The lessons she learned through the program inform her daily interactions with military service members and their spouses. Read more.
Kathy Hobbs, Yorktown, Virginia
Kathy is a Personal Financial Counselor with Zeiders Enterprises and their Military Family Life Consultant Program. Her husband is currently stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico—her family’s ninth PCS move. Kathy offers financial counseling, training and education to military servicemembers and their families. Kathy feels the lessons of the fellowship will continue to resonate and plans to stay involved in the financial counseling field. The program has given Kathy a set of portable job skills and the ability to help families in need of financial education. "The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program has enriched my life, and it's allowed me to help others and myself. It's invaluable." Read more.
Amy Hutchison, Norfolk, Virginia
Amy Hutchison works in the MFLC PFC program both as a financial counselor and assistant to the program's operations. She attributes her career achievements to the training she gained through the Military Spouse Fellowship Program. The program helped fine-tune her financial management skills, and she uses many of the financial lessons and tools in her daily life and work. "I love helping people," Amy said." If the resources and assistance I provide to servicemembers and their families can make their day a little better, then I have done my job." Read more.
Renee Jaffer, Okinawa, Japan
Renee is an accredited financial counselor at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in Okinawa, Japan. She enjoys sharing her fellowship expertise with servicemembers and their families. The fellowship has empowered her to manipulate finances in new ways. "With education comes confidence," Renee said. "The fellowship program has given me that." Read more.
Margo Kucsera, Fairfield, California
Margo is part of the 2011 class of Spouse Fellows and after gaining extensive experience in helping servicemembers with tax returns, she is now looking to broaden her skill set. As part of the military community for more than 20 years and a native of Scotland, Margo Kucsera and her family have moved to and from Europe several times over the course of her husband’s career. With her children grown and settled, she is now focused on her career and helping the military community. "It’s been so rewarding working with the military community and helping them see that they can manage their finances on their own, even if they didn’t think they could." Read more.
Katie Leiva, Columbia, SC
In early 2007, Katie was working at a Military Saves event at the Pentagon, where she met representatives from FINRA Foundation and NMFA who told her about the Spouse Fellowship. She applied for and received the fellowship later that year. At that time she was the project coordinator for BBB Military Line, a grant-funded program at the Council of Better Business Bureaus that provides consumer education and advocacy for servicemembers and their families. There she developed course curricula and materials on financial education and consumer awareness for teens and adults to be used by BBB trainers at military bases throughout the US. "I thought [the Military Spouse Fellowship Program] would augment my knowledge and give me a leg up in developing new curricula. The certification certainly gives me more credibility." Read more.
Astrid Lutter, San Antonio, Texas
Astrid had trouble finding a stable and satisfying career path for several years. As a military spouse, the PCS moves she and her husband had to make complicated her ability to gain any relevant work experience. The FINRA Spouse Fellowship program has allowed her to develop a career that she is passionate about, with skills she can take with her anywhere. In the future, Astrid plans to stay on this career path and to continue developing her skills as an accredited financial counselor for military servicemembers and their families. "I plan on taking these skills with me to our next base, and to all the bases after that. I know now that there's more out there for me to do." Read more.
Teresa ("Teri") Mace, Minot, North Dakota
Teri has recently obtained her bachelor's degree and hopes to become a full-time financial counselor at Minot Air Force Base. The FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship Program opened doors academically and professionally for Teri and provided her with a newfound passion for personal finance. As part of the fellowship program, she volunteered her time at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center where she counseled military families. "There is such a need in the military community for [financial education] information and I’m excited that I can be the one to help," she said. Read more.
Morgan McCorkle, Stafford, Virginia
Morgan McCorkle is currently working toward becoming an accredited financial counselor as a 2010 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow. The program has not only helped with her career aspirations, it has also given her the tools to gain more control over her family's finances. "This program is a great experience—you get to learn things and you get to help your brothers and sisters in the military. It's rewarding in so many ways." Read more.
Stacey Pennington, Olympia, Washington
Stacey Pennington's inherent love for saving and financial planning—which was evident when she was a child—is what inspired her to apply for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. She wanted to learn how to make her money "work smarter, not harder"—and pass that knowledge on to others. She received her Financial Counselor accreditation in 2008. "I do my best to offer practical and useful information," Stacy said. "I want those I counsel to be able to use the tips and tricks I give them." Read more.
Lila Quintiliani, Fort Eustis, Virginia
As a graduate of the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program, Lila Quintiliani has obtained the knowledge and planning skills that help her serve the military community, while also improving her own family’s financial stability. She’s using the skills she acquired to help servicemembers stay away from making common financial mistakes, including those she made herself. “I would encourage other military spouses to apply to the program—it is a great thing to do as far as personal and professional growth, and you can help servicemembers in the process.” Read more.
Tara Sanders, Norfolk, Virginia
Tara has moved nearly a dozen times in 15 years, leaving little room for job stability. The Military Spouse Fellowship Program gave her the chance to gain skills that complemented her transient lifestyle and to give back to the military community. Tara currently volunteers at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) in Norfolk, Virginia, as the casework coordinator, but hopes to broaden her career in financial counseling as a trainer working with NMCRS offices throughout the world. "I know how stressful deployment cycles can be, and I'd like to give fellow military families peace of mind—and help ease financial strain," Tara said. Read more.
Tamara Scace, Groton, Connecticut
Tamara Scace has been a military spouse for 39 years and is a self-proclaimed person of the "old school." Whether it's dealing with deployment or struggling with debt, Scace’s advice is simple, "plan, plan, plan." She believes helping other military families better understand their finances is important in every military community. "In the end, we try to coach service members financially as much as possible so they can focus on their mission. If they're worried about their families, they're not going to be mission oriented." Read more.
Christy Schrock, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Christy is the Military Spouse Fellowship Program's first graduate. She manages the Fort Campbell Financial Readiness Program's Consumer Affairs Office. Today, Christy and her husband are debt-free—after paying off $80,000 in debt, including student loans, car loans and credit card bills—and are confident about their financial future. Christy inspires military servicemembers and their families with her story—and with the knowledge she gained through the program. "As financial counselors, we are not selling financial products," Christy said. "We are an unbiased source of information." Read more.
Cherie Stueve, Topeka, Kansas
Cherie currently works with various military communities by providing workshops and one-on-one counseling. In Topeka, Cherie is a Mentor in the HOPE program that helps families build skills for financial capability and serves on the Grant Committee for The Women’s Fund of Topeka that supports local financial literacy programs for women and children. "After over 24 years of prioritizing my spouse's Coast Guard career and two children, I'm excited to enter the next chapter of my life helping others through my passion for financial stability," Cherie said. Read more.
Arndrea Thomas, Goldsboro, North Carolina
Arndrea is the only accredited financial counselor at the Airman and Family Readiness Center on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and serves as the core compliance expert on base. She completed her AFC designation just six months after she was accepted to become a FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow. She said the program increased her knowledge of personal finance by 300 percent, knowledge that informs all of her interactions with military servicemembers and families who visit the center. "I like doing something that makes a difference and empowers people," Arndrea said. Read more.
Dawn Torres-Gale, Holden, Massachusetts
Through lessons learned from her own personal financial situation, Dawn was inspired to serve as an advocate for others as a court-appointed mediator. This experience, in turn, inspired her to apply for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. Not only has Dawn worked with the National Guard and Operation Homefront, but she is now also actively engaged in financial literacy groups and projects in her community. "I have enjoyed this work very much, particularly when I am able to help a servicemember or their spouse change their thinking about money management," Dawn said. Read more.
Trysha Upton, Waldorf, Maryland
Trysha applied for the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship Program because she was looking for a way to get back into the workforce and had an interest in finance. She says the program provided her with the skills and training she needed to move ahead. With four children at home and two in college, she recently completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting and finance, and is hoping to build a career in personal financial counseling. "I just want to help military families reach their financial goals and point them in the right direction." Read more.
Mikki Venekamp, Omaha, Nebraska
When Mikki Venekamp—a graduate of the 2010 class of FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellows—was a bank teller, she would occasionally see financially troubled families come through the doors. Their worries wore on them. Their bank accounts were dwindling. She knew they needed help, but there was little she could offer. That was when she decided to become a financial counselor. Read more.
Erin Willis, Silverdale, Washington
Erin, a former member of the U.S. Navy, understands the financial hardships that military servicemembers can face. The FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship has given her an opportunity to help these servicemembers and their families, and also gain valuable skills that she can take with her wherever she goes. In the future, Erin plans on staying on the path of personal financial counseling and she tries to recruit other spouses into the Spouse Fellowship Program at any chance she gets. "I tell every spouse I talk to about the program and encourage them to apply." Read more.
Andi Wrenn, Arlington, Virginia
Since graduating from the program in 2008, Andi has been particularly active in the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship community, including managing the FINRA Foundation Spouse Fellows Facebook and LinkedIn groups. She has been mentoring, networking and supervising FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellows for years. Andi is working to build a stronger network and provide Fellows with support as they go through the program and graduate. "I want to reach as many people as possible to educate them and help them save more, reduce debt and reach their financial goals." Read more.
Joan Yarrell, Rockledge, Florida
Joan, a reserve officer in the Air Force for 19 years, has always had a goal to become a certified financial planner. Joan is on a steadying career path with the 340th Flying Training Group, Financial Management Office at Randolph AFB, and the FINRA Spouse Fellowship Program served as a means for her to gain more knowledge and a certification to help move her career forward and become even more knowledgeable about personal finances. "One thing I've learned is to be more disciplined about finances. This course has taught me that it's not something you do once a month, but you use these tools on a daily basis." Read more.
Cathy Yoakum, Aviano Air Base, Italy
Cathy coordinates and teaches classes and financial readiness events at the Airman & Family Readiness Center at Aviano Air Base in Northeastern Italy. A military spouse for 20 years, Cathy uses her first-hand experience of living on one income to connect with her clients. Cathy believes that being prepared financially is very important and plans to use the skills she's obtained through the fellowship to expand her career in financial education. Cathy’s goal is to "spread the word about how important it is to live within your means, have a budget and save." Read more.
Kimberly Zamagni, Oceanside, California
Kimberly puts her program experience into practice at a San Diego office of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, where the training she gained through the Military Spouse Fellowship Program helps her provide financial, educational and other assistance to servicemembers and their families. Kimberly has refined her family's money management skills—a byproduct of a program that's taught her to better manage other people's money—and her own. "I’m always looking for different avenues to help reduce military families' debt," Kimberly said. Read more.