Arica Ureña was a single mother serving in the U.S. Army when she decided she needed to pave a way to a better life for her son and their future. In her eyes, the only way to that life was doing what no one in her family before her had done—earn a bachelor’s degree.
The desire to go to college was always there for Arica, but joining the military was the only path she saw that could get her to a degree someday.
“Growing up, I was taught the only way to afford an education was through the military,” she said. “While in service, I started my associate degree at CSU, and it really set me up for success on the outside and assisted in my promotion to the rank of staff sergeant in the United States Army.”
After completing her associate degree, Arica pushed herself to go further.
“I was the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree,” she said. “I earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in marketing. It was scary and all I kept thinking about was I wanted to be bigger than my circumstances. When I see my family and how proud they are it means a lot. I now have younger ones in my family who are coming up behind me asking about school and how I did it.”
Arica’s mentorship goes beyond just those in her family. As a transition specialist for Hire Heroes USA, a non-profit organization helping military members, veterans and military spouses find new careers, Arica spends each day serving those who have served our country.
“I give them a more personalized experience in their transition from military to civilian life. We help them with job searches, the interview process and all the way up to when they are hired.”
Hire Heroes has helped around 75,000 service members and spouses succeed in the civilian workforce.
“I love it because I was that person,” said Arica. “I had no idea what to do once I got out of the military. I was 17 years old when I first joined and had no idea about civilian life which prompted me to go right back in the military because I didn’t know what I was doing. I get to help my fellow brothers and sisters every day.”
Arica has walked in the shoes of a once single, military parent who earned three degrees. Her advice to anyone doing the same is simple. Keep your “why” in plain sight.
“Why are you doing this? Who are you earning your degree for? When you are clear about why you are going on this educational journey, your focus will sharpen,” she said. At the time, my “why” was my son. I wanted to be able to provide a better life for my son and I knew that advancing my education would allow me to do just that.”
To learn more about Hire Heroes, visit HireHeroesUSA.org.