A few weeks ago, I interviewed Capella University Graduate, Rachael Hartman. Rachael is a recent graduate and now works as an Education Guidance Counselor on a military base.
Rachael grew up moving around the country as her father was a Military Service Member. She is currently 28 years old, is living in her 29th house and has attended 18 schools.
Rachael graduated from Capella's graduate program with a Human Services degree. Rachael enjoyed her experience at Capella so much that she hopes to get her PhD from Capella in the future.
I spoke with Rachael for over an hour, and I honestly didn't want to hang up with her. The amount I learned in that time period gave me an insight I never truly thought about. I really wanted to know what drove her to become a counselor in the military and what it was about Capella that enabled her to do so.
Rachael always felt as though school was an escape for her. If she had something going on in her life, she could bury her head in her books and focus on school. It didn't matter where she was living at the time, she could count on school to be a safe haven.
She always knew she wanted an education, but it wasn't until she went to Operation Military Kids that she realized what she wanted to do with that education. Operation Military Kids is a camp for kids of military families. She observed a counselor there, and it was then that she came to terms with her life and decided she wanted to help others that were and had grown up in the Military.
Rachael didn't feel as though she had experienced a bad life, but she didn't have a normal childhood. She didn't have any one particular house that she “grew up in,” best friends or hometown roots. Without having all these things, she struggled knowing who she was and where she was from. It wasn't until Operation Military Kids that she realized she had grief to process, as well as loss and attachment issues. She was never in one area long enough to really find a true friend, to keep a friend. She always felt as though she was the "new girl," trying to find her place, and just when she felt as though she had found it, she moved.
When Rachael was at Operation Military Kids, she was transitioning out of the Military, so to speak, and trying to figure out who she was as a young woman. Being able to observe counseling sessions and being a dorm supervisor let her see there were so many young kids going through exactly what she went through. She, too, was learning from that counselor about the heartache she was experiencing just from having a parent in the Military.
"There was a certain little girl, who was ten years old, and her dad was in Korea. When I was ten, my dad was also in Korea. I saw something in her that I felt when I was her age. We could relate because I knew what she was going through."
Rachael went on to talk about the process known as the "Emotional Cycle of Deployment." Again, this is something else she didn't know existed until she was at camp. She was learning she wasn't the only young girl with a military family who felt emotionally unstable.
Rachael knew she wanted to take the things she had learned and share them with others, but she knew she probably needed a good education to do so.
Rachael had a tremendous amount of respect for Service Members and felt as though she could really help them and their families process some of the things much earlier than she was able to. She wanted to be able to talk to them about their issues and offer her knowledge.
Rachael then made the decision to start at Capella. After some debating on which direction she wanted to go, the Enrollment Counselors helped her learn about all the courses Capella had to offer so that she could determine which path she wanted to go down in order obtain the knowledge she was reaching for. "Capella helped me understand how to define myself as a professional and what was expected of a professional," said Rachael.
Rachael and I talked about the courses she took at Capella and how they impacted her. She immediately mentioned one in particular and how it really changed her perspective on who she was becoming as a person and a professional.
"There was a chapter we were reading during the ethics course and I remember so clearly all the things I felt. It talked about knowing who you are and what you stand for. The chapter talked about determining what your life's purpose is and that it’s okay if it's completely different from someone else's. You don’t have to worry. It was then that I finally started having the realizations that I don’t have to be everything to everybody, I could be myself. I could find the best fit for me as a professional."
Instead of school remaining something Rachael did to escape other aspects of life, she decided her Capella education could be the foundation for her to become a counseling professional. Rachael also talked about how this education was doable anywhere. She could do her courses from the comfort of her own home, or a coffee shop, or wherever she needed to be.
Rachael really stressed that Capella wants you to do your best and they want you to learn in ways that suit your personality. "Being at Capella, I was able to focus on what I felt would be a good fit for me. I wanted to continue my own healing, by helping others heal, and they supported my decision and gave me a backbone to do that."
Rachael now talks with anyone who walks in her door. Since she works on a military base, she can relate to the Service Members that come in as well as their families. She is able to encourage them when they never really thought school or continuing their education was an option.
"Many of them come in and they do have emotional and/or physical issues; many of them have no confidence. I work with them to sort through those issues and I'm able to let them know they do have something more to offer the world other than their Military Service," Rachael said.
"I think Service Members and their families are the best people I can work with because they truly know what sacrifice is," Rachael replied when I asked her how she liked being on a Military Base. "I've been in their shoes and going to Capella helped me to gain confidence that I could help the people who meant the most to me."
In closing, I told Rachael I was amazed at how confident she seemed and how wonderful it was that she was working with Service Members and their families. I could tell she did have heartache from her past, but she absolutely felt that the professional career choice she chose was allowing her to heal while helping so many others. She told me, "Capella opened so many doors for me that I never, ever expected to open."
To hear other great stories from Capella alumni, visit http://www.insidecapella.com/our-graduates.asp.
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