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IMG_3771Welcome back to the Corvias Connects blog! We have been working hard to  make a better blog for connecting our group.  We hope you find the posts to be interesting, helpful, and inspiring. Be sure to check for new posts each Thursday evening.  If you have suggestions or are interested in joining the blog project team, please feel free to use our contact pages.  Happy Reading!

Katie Newton, Blog Editor

Welcome, 2017 Scholars & Alumni!

To all of the new scholars & new alumni – welcome (some just to a new chapter) to our Corvias family!

As we gear up for the 2017 Alumni Summit in Chester, CT, it is a great time to highlight the immense benefits of being in this family. First things first – we do call ourselves a family, because we are. When we are together, we have fun, challenge each other, tell jokes & stories, and may even bicker a little – just like a real family. We congratulate successes and support each other in our times of need. We utilize each other as resources to connect to others at professional, personal, and philanthropic levels. We use our social media accounts to check in, ask questions that we think other scholars & alumni can help us with, and share our service learning opportunities. Even when we have been apart for a whole year, we can come together and pick up right where we left off – because people care about truly connecting while we are all together. All in all – we really are a family.

If you just finished high school and are entering our family for the first time – welcome. We love & care about everyone in this group and can’t wait to see your successes and connect with you. This group has so many individuals with such diverse and intricate strengths and abilities that you can draw on to help you thrive in your first year of college (in addition to all of the others!). If you’re feeling homesick, less competent than you were expecting to feel after having so much success in high school (hello calculus that almost made me question my whole life first semester!), excited to have finally found your niche, or proud of all of your accomplishments – feel free to share. Not only have we literally ALL been there, but we have ALL been there for each other over the past decade to support each other through it. Plus, we love to commend you on your hard work & just who you are in general. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a group of strangers, at least keep in contact with Melissa, Erin & Maria. They care about you even more than we do (I know you didn’t think that was possible!), and want nothing more than to see all of you succeed.

If you just graduated college & are entering our family as an alumni – congratulations! Hopefully you have already seen how amazing this group can be and how much you can benefit from engaging with the members of our group. Since graduating 2 years ago, I feel like I have grown so much personally from being a part of our alumni group. The excitement and happiness that we feel before getting together for our alumni summits is unmatchable. Now we get to help each other as we get our first jobs, continue to grad school, get married, grow our families, and continue to engage in service opportunities. It is also a fun time to connect with people who might be going to the college you attended so you can give a few pointers that you wish you might have known. Either way, no matter how long it took (but how short it felt!) to get here – congratulations.

Welcome, welcome, welcome! We hope you have the most amazing time in Boston & that you can connect/reconnect with your incoming/graduating class. Those relationships can become some of the most important in your life. Feel free to reach out to literally anyone during your upcoming journey.

And since we are a family, it is only right to end by saying – welcome home. ❤

Adjusting to College — Military Brats

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From left to right: Omer, Cody, Nancy, Melissa, Samantha, Kinza, Benedikt (me)

I’ve been in college for two years now. I’m finally on my own and have been able to spend my time, energy, and the limited amount of money I have however I choose! This has led to a surprising amount of magical and constructive moments. However, the one experience that surprised me the most, and continues to surprise me, was how long it took to adjust to college — in fact, I’m still not fully accustomed to it. Getting to know and becoming close friends with the other students as a military brat was harder than expected. Traditionally, military brats are infamous for being too good at adjusting from one PCS to another. How come my college transition isn’t going as smoothly? If this school was going to be my home for four years, it shouldn’t take two to get settled.

Last October, Corvias provided the opportunity for 4 other Corvias scholars and me to attend Lead365, a leadership conference in beautiful Orlando! Although we had never met before, the other scholars and I experienced an immediate sense of friendship and the familiar military brat camaraderie that could’ve only been noticed if you’ve been without it for some time. We compared where we’ve been stationed, seeing if we were close to running into each other at some point in our lives and finding seemingly random mutual friends from our pasts. As the conference progressed, the scholars provided an open-environment for emotional conversation and the refreshing feeling of being at home. Although it wasn’t intentional, the most valuable lesson I learned in Orlando was how important it is to be surrounded by students who understand and can relate to your upbringing, and ultimately, your identity.

Since Lead365 I haven’t found many military brats at school, although, I recognize that the close friends I do have are almost identical to one. They grew up going to 5+ schools; they know what it’s like to be the new person in a group. They know how to make the best of a situation, even if that’s not where they want to be. They know that distance isn’t a reason to grow apart from someone, rather, it’s more of a motive to keep in touch. They know that their home is not where they are, but who they’re with. Their friendship has made the world of a difference to my college experience. It has positively influenced my decisions and comfort and I’m indebted to them for making my school, my home.

I say this because most of the schools attended by current scholars, alumni, and military brats have fewer military students than the high schools and/or neighborhoods with which we’re familiar. That means you’ll be part of the 5% instead of the 75%. It means more people will be curious about what USAA is or why you have a separate ID exclusive to the armed forces. It means it might be hard to adjust even though you’re so good at adjusting, because in the real world only 1% of the United States’ population are immediate relatives to the military. If you find yourself in a similar position that I was in, don’t be afraid to reach out to other military brats, international students, nomads, and their families — both at your school and through Corvias. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll become acquainted, and how easy it is for a friendship to blossom. Always remember, home is not where you are but who you’re surrounded with.

We All Played With Swords

Fayetteville, North Carolina is home to the largest military instillation in the world, and a place that many in the Army and Air Force communities call home.  I would like to share with you a special part of Fayetteville, the All American Fencing Academy.  Today, I shine the spotlight on a community that I believe exemplifies the Corvias Alumni values: Imagine, Empower, Reach Higher.  If any of you Corvias kids are in North Carolina, then you ought to drop by and see for yourself.

The All American Fencing Academy is located just off Hay St. on the second floor of what used to be a ballet studio.  You can take month long beginners classes with equipment provided for only $80, or you can stop in any fourth Friday of the month for a $10 walk-in class.  They have opportunities for anybody interested in recreational fencing or competitive, for children as young as seven and adults of all ages.

This entire business and community is the life work of one man, Gerhard Guevarra.  Gerhard graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Physical Education, Exercise, and Sports Science.   He joined the Carolina Varsity Fencing team and learned from scratch under Fencing Master Dr. Ron Miller.  Gerhard founded his own fencing school shortly after college as an after school program at a rec center.  His classes ballooned with students from all over central North Carolina, and he moved his fledgling school onto Fort Bragg, founding a stronger relationship with the military community.

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I began attending fencing classes with Gerhard when in 2002, when I was twelve, and found myself consumed by both mental and physical elements of the sport.  At sixteen, Gerhard offered me a job as assistant coach and manager, and he began to teach me leadership skills and financial responsibility.  I was one of Gerhard’s first competitive students, traveling as far as Atlanta to participate in North Atlantic Cups and Junior Olympic Qualifiers.  The early All American squad was made up predominately of Army brats like me.  Gerhard would eventually recommend me to his Dr. Miller, and I competed for three years with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Varsity men’s epee team.

You should check out fencing.  It’s a really fun way to exercise and challenge yourself. Gerhard likes to remind his students that the second fastest moving object in the Olympic Games is the tip of a fencer’s weapon (second only to a marksmen’s bullet) – but you shouldn’t feel intimidated.  Fencing is a safe sport even with swords: you’re wearing protective gear and in the presence of trained professionals.  Fencing is as much a mental sport as it is physical, everyone has the ability to succeed.  If you’ve ever been interested in fencing and you’re near Fayetteville, you must visit.  Tell them Paul sent you.