An area woman is being recognized for advocacy efforts to help veterans in the region pursue a college degree.
Ashley Adamovage, military liaison and program manager of University of North Carolina Wilmington, launched the Southeastern Council on Military Education (SECOME) – a cohort of post-secondary institutions, corporations, and military organizations that work to improve educational opportunities for military-affiliated students in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The states combined have dozens of military bases, which is part of the reason the organization was created initially.
“SECOME’s member states … have some of the largest military installations and populations within the United States,” Adamovage said. “The most important weapon that a service member has is their brain, and we should ensure that this weapon is being developed through quality educational programs and services.”
Adamovage, who is originally from Maryland, relocated to Onslow County when her husband was stationed here with the Marine Corps. Her university career started unexpectedly in 2010 when she faced challenges finding employment locally.
“I ended up in the education world by accident. It was not my plan, when I went to college it wasn’t even on my radar. I moved here and quickly learned how competitive the careers are here. I saw a program manager position pop up for the university, and at that point I was applying to a job a day … sure enough I got the position with UNCW and fell in love,” she said.
Through her position, the mom-of-two learned of ongoing barriers facing students who pursued off-duty schooling. She explains that even though this demographic has access to financial aid funding through their service, it is a lack of standardization that keeps them from attaining a degree.
“These students work full-time and have children, but what sets them apart from adult learners is their priority to serve this nation,” Adamovage said. “Aside from the personal challenges that students face by simply being connected to the military, the largest challenges … lie within the standards of agencies that implement policy, as well as within many institutions of higher learning. Many institutions have access to receive DOD and VA educational benefits, however, many are falling short as to retain and to ultimately help students succeed through graduation.”
SECOME connects the lines of communication between policymakers and students, by discussing ways to help the latter succeed. Adamovage said it also serves as an information and referral system, professional development platform, and offers an annual scholarship program for students.
Recently, she learned those efforts earned SECOME the 2018 Gary A. Woods Advisory Council on Military Education (ACME) Award. The award “is presented to an ACME in recognition of its significant contributions to the cause of military and/or veteran education” whose “accomplishments demonstrate the nominee’s dedication and leadership in promoting, supporting, and/or delivering quality education programs and services for our Armed Services members, Veterans, and their families,” according to Esmeralda Silva of Council of College and Military Educators’ (CCME) Public Affairs Office.
Adamovage says the award validates that her organization is doing what it set out to achieve.
“When I think about the men and women that put on the uniform each day, I can’t help but believe that we should all be doing something to contribute to our national security. Although I don’t put on the uniform, this is how I can contribute to this cause,” she said. “This award simply means that SECOME is accomplishing its mission, and its leadership continues to bring many more assets to the men and women that live in our member states that do put that uniform on.”
On Feb. 1, SECOME will begin accepting scholarship applications from military-affiliated students that reside in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Additional details can be found at http://www.secome.org/scholarships. The goal is to distribute $20,000 worth of support.
Ashley Adamovage will formally receive the award on behalf of SECOME in March at the CCME Annual Symposium’s award ceremony in San Diego, Calif.
Posted by Ruby Barnhart