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The FINRA Foundation has awarded more than 1,400 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 service members 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.
Joseph Scott Blakistone, Colorado Springs, CO
Joseph Scott Blakistone is currently stationed with his Navy wife at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, CO. He lists his current responsibility as stay-at-home dad of two boys, ages 2.5 and 6. He is a graduate of Baylor University with a B.B.A majoring in Information Systems Management and Human Resources Management, and thirteen years of experience in the private, professional sector working in software engineering for companies such as Accenture, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. Read more.
Angela Conrad, Geilenkirchen, Germany
Angela Conrad’s interest in personal finance began at Texas Tech University, where she studied Personal Financial Planning and Family and Consumer Science Education. Angela applied for FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship to build upon her educational background and be of greater service to her military community. 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 service members repair their credit is one of Shay's specialties. One resource she uses with her clients is the free FICO® score available to service members 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.
Stefanie Craig, Chesapeake, VA
Stefanie Craig is a 2016 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow residing in Chesapeake, Virginia. Her Navy husband is stationed at JEB Little Creek. Stefanie has a background in providing career and educational counseling services to other military spouses and to young adults. She currently works as a counselor for at-risk youth, assisting them to reach both their personal and professional goals. Read more.
Andia Dinesen, Northern Virginia
Andia Dinesen is 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. AMBA also includes military banking facilities designated by the U.S. Treasury. Andia assists the President/CEO of AMBA in all aspects of communications and operations with a focus on providing support to AMBA members and associate members by creating and maintaining a public awareness campaign of AMBA and its members to the military community. Andia is responsible for ensuring relevant and up-to-date electronic materials reach intended users through the www.ambahq.org website. She is responsible for maintaining a social media presence and supporting AMBA members through multiple facets of electronic communication. 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.
Meghan Gardner, St. Louis, Missouri
Meghan Gardner is a 2013 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow who is currently working for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Financial Coaching Initiative as a Financial Coach for economically vulnerable consumers in St Louis, MO through Armed Forces Services Corporation. Meghan believes that personal finance is personal, which means that the plan for achievement should be personal, too. She continues working directly with military members through her position with SNAP Inc. as a Personal Financial Management Course Instructor for AIT Soldiers at Ft Leonard Wood as well as volunteering with Military Saves, Military Spouse Advocacy Network, and Purple Heart Homes. She will earn her Accredited Financial Counselor mark in late 2015, She is also pursuing the Financial Fitness Coach designation, and expects to complete that program in mid-2016.
Cynthia Giesecke, Sierra Vista, AZ
Cynthia Giesecke is a 2013 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow who is currently working as a caseworker and outreach representative for Congresswoman Martha McSally, Arizona District 2. Cynthia believes that personal finance begins with a change in attitude towards money. She continues working directly with military members through her position as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance as well as volunteering with National Military Family Association, Southern Arizona Girl Scouts program as a financial literacy instructor, and Army Family Team Building Instructor. Her goal is to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® mark in early 2016.
Deanna Henderson, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Deanna is currently a Financial Planning Counselor for the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she teaches financial planning workshops and provides one-on-one financial counseling services for military personnel transitioning from active duty service. In addition, she is working on an M.S. degree in Family Financial Planning and Counseling at the University of Alabama. 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 service members 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.
Attiyya Ingram, Okinawa, Japan
Attiyya Ingram is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated, with honors, from Hampton University with a B.S. degree in Accounting.
Attiyya found her passion for helping others gain control of their financial well-being when she began volunteering with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. She continued volunteering her time by facilitating Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. During this same time she expanded her financial education by attending Boston University and earning a graduate certificate in financial planning.
As a committed community servant, Attiyya also volunteers her financial management expertise at the Stuttgart Tax Center as an Internal Revenue Service certified tax preparer. She prepared tax returns for service members, civilian personnel, government employees and contractors. Read more.
Katie Leiva, Durham, NC
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 service members 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 service members 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.
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.
Candice Pombar, Colorado Springs, CO
Candice Pombar is mother to three young children and wife to a US Army soldier. She lives in Colorado Springs, CO while her husband is stationed at Fort Carson. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Spanish from Stephen F. Austin State University. She discovered her heart for helping other people gain control over their finances after she and her husband worked very hard early in their marriage to get out of debt and live on a budget. 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 service members 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 service members in the process.” Read more.
Adrienne Ross, Stafford, VA
Adrienne is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor®, and a Financial Fitness Coach candidate. Since receiving the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship in 2010, she has relentlessly pursued her passion of personal financial management. From working with military service members and their families, to serving low income and at risk households in non-profit organizations, to a private practice helping men and women align their dollars with their dreams, Adrienne is committed to helping people find mastery over their money.
For many years, life as a military spouse meant a career would have to wait. Numerous PCS moves and multiple overseas duty assignments made consistent employment impossible. However, the richness of military life meant that there were plenty of opportunities for learning and personal development. The advent of online schooling allowed Adrienne to complete a degree in Liberal Studies in 2008. 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 service members 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 service members and families who visit the center. "I like doing something that makes a difference and empowers people," Arndrea said. Read more.
Dawn Torres-Gale, AFC, Portland, Oregon
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 service member or their spouse change their thinking about money management," Dawn said. Read more.
Jennifer Trimble, Kings Bay, GA
A 2013 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow, Jennifer is a current Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) candidate. As a FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow, she has earned volunteer based- practicum field hours working with organizations such as St. Mary's Church, National Disability Institute, Purple Heart Homes—Boots to Backyards Program, BBB Military Line, Fleet & Family Support Center—Kings Bay, Money Mi$$ion Mentor App, and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. She expects to complete the AFC® program in 2016. 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.
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.