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Top economics student proudly serves her country


Army National Guard has taught Maria Espana respect, cooperation, and has enriched her education

Wednesday Nov 04, 2015


Indiana University Northwest’s “Most Promising Student in Economics” from last year’s College of Arts and Sciences Honors Tea is also a proud U.S. soldier.

Maria Espana, 21, of Chesterton, takes 15 credit hours and holds two other part-time jobs in addition to her role in the U.S. Army National Guard.

As if that weren’t enough to juggle, Espana’s success has come in spite of a few obstacles that, understandably, would hinder success for many. For starters, English is not her first language. It’s something she needed to learn once she moved to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 12, which she recalls as a difficult transition. She is also the first in her family to pursue a college education, which meant lots of support, but little guidance.

Money to pay for college was another obstacle. Joining the military is one route that many take to eventually earn a tuition benefit. Espana decided that joining the National Guard would be right for her because of the flexibility it provided.

After taking a semester off from her IU Northwest education to complete 10 weeks of basic training, and another 10 weeks for more specialized job training, Espana now travels to Marion, Ind. one weekend a month to the National Guard base where she works as a human resources specialist. This serves as still more experience that will benefit her in her chosen career path as a financial advisor.

There is a trade-off, of course. With these benefits comes the risk of being deployed. Still, she says the benefits of her service in the National Guard outweigh the risks.

“I wanted to do this to further my education because I wanted to make sure I could afford staying in school but also, once I was there, I loved it,” she said. “These are good skills for civilian life as well. You learn how to work with others and be open-minded.”

She’s learned that the education she is getting as an economics major could one day take her places within the military as well, leaving her with open doors in more than one place.

“As a U.S. Soldier, education makes me eligible for promotions. My sergeants always tell me how important school is, that having a degree shows character and determination, which is very important for the Army. On a professional level, my degree would help me obtain a better position at work or even be promoted in the Army.”

As Veterans Day approaches, Espana reflects on what she’s learned about those who serve and she is filled with respect. She thinks of her fellow soldiers as “brothers and sisters,” and the “biggest family you will ever find.”

“If you meet a veteran, you have to have a lot of respect. These people, some of them went through a lot. Some may not have gone through as much as others, but you really have to respect what people did during their time in the service,” Espana said. “I am proud to say I am in the military.”

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