Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders

What was at first a volunteer passion project has turned into a career.

By Nitza Rivera, volunteer

I have been able to see first-hand how something that may seem so insignificant to one person, can improve the quality of life for another.

I truly believe that veteran leadership in our communities is just as important for the veteran as it is for the community it’s impacting.

With all my military moves through the different parts of this country and abroad, one thing remains constant, and that is the lack of leadership within our communities. It doesn’t necessarily mean that communities don’t care, I think that a lot of the times community members don’t know who to reach out to or where to look for guidance.

Planting and Clearing Garden Beds at Seeds of Faith Community Garden

For me, and other veterans, leaving the service left a void in our passion to serve others. Having the opportunity to use our leadership experience to serve and help mentor members in our communities fills that void. It also provides a platform of peer support for other veterans within the community, and the opportunity for the community to interact and learn about veterans.

Continue reading “Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders”

How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)

August 28, 2018
By Mary Beth Bruggeman, VP of Program Strategy

At The Mission Continues, diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve.

Why bother to build diverse teams in the first place, and how can you do it effectively?

If you’re wondering why diverse teams matter, I’ll break it down in terms that translate to everything we (and others) do. Diverse teams — in race, gender, identity, experience, age and many other factors– are proven to make better decisions.

There is ample evidence that companies with the higher percentages of racial/ethnic diversity are more likely to have higher financial returns than companies with less diverse teams. Among other benefits, organizations that embrace diversity have employees that are more likely to feel connected to others in the workplace, which fuels collaboration and innovation.

Veterans at our 2018 Women Veteran Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

It matters in our work at The Mission Continues, because diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve, along with being generally more effective decision making bodies. Continue reading “How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)”

Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities

July 31, 2018

Inspired by her childhood in Mexico, Carolina was destined to become a fashion designer with a purpose. Carolina said, “I used to observe my mother making clothes for my siblings and myself. Seeing her transform fabrics into garments intrigued me to the point that it motivated me to come to the United States.”

At the age of 18, Carolina left everything she knew in the hopes of attending design school in the United States. “The simple pleasures that most natives took for granted like simply understanding a movie in English was a daunting task,” she describes.

Thrust into a different culture and language was challenging — but she pushed herself to adapt to her new environment. For five years she worked during the day and completed English as Second Language classes (ESL) at night. Continue reading “Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities”

How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations

July 27, 2018
By Melissa Maskulka, Platoon Member

My most vivid memories of my grandma are those in which she exemplified engaged citizenship, a can-do attitude and showcased how powerful a woman could be. She was the first in her family to go to college, valedictorian of her high school class, while working in the restaurant her immigrant parents owned after school and on weekends.

For as traditional as she was, she was also unconventional. She didn’t marry until she was nearly 30 years of age – almost rebellious in the 1950s. Her husband, a World War II Army Air Corps vet and firefighter, passed away after less than a decade of marriage.

Left with two small children to care for, my grandmother went back to school to get her master’s degree in education and spent nearly the next 25 years of her life teaching elementary school while pushing two successful young adults to pursue their dreams.

She did this while proving she didn’t need to subscribe to the traditional family structure of the time – husband, wife and 2.5 kids. She fiercely proved her independence and place in society even when others questioned her ability to do so.

Through years as a public school teacher, dedicated volunteer at the Historical Society, Garden Club and Ronald McDonald House, and her consistent involvement in local politics, it was easy to have a commitment to service ingrained in my lifestyle. I had seen it consistently for 33 year of my life.

We lost her one year ago, after she quietly made a profound difference for 96 years on this earth. It wasn’t until after I had finished cleaning up from Baltimore’s first #HerMission project on May 20th that I realized it had been a year since she passed. Exactly one year since her memorial service. Continue reading “How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations”

One Team. One Mission. #HerMission.

May 5, 2018

The Mission Continues - Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018

Meet the group of exceptional women veterans who are on the frontlines of community change. There were a total of 75 participants attending the Women Veterans Leadership Summit, and while every woman who attended is a rockstar, we wanted to share a sample cross-section of 10 participants from across the country as examples of the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and stories that are represented at our summit each year.

This is #HerMission.

 

Continue reading “One Team. One Mission. #HerMission.”

Why I’m Looking Forward to Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018

April 24, 2018
By Karen Quiles, Platoon Member

77 dynamic women veteran leaders will gather in DC for this weekend for our 3rd annual Women Veterans Leadership Summit. Together they’ll engage in communication and writing workshops, experience inspiring speakers, and grow their personal and professional networks.

This is a unique forum to exchange ideas and solutions around the challenges women veterans face while developing pathways to increase women veteran leadership within their communities.

As we countdown the days to the summit, we want to highlight some of our participants and how they came to The Mission Continues. Here’s Karen Quiles’s story.

 

How the Military Empowered Me

Mission Continues volunteers Karen Quiles and Frankie Perez in Puerto Rico

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I grew up in a very humble environment and I had a simple upbringing. Growing up in Puerto Rico was hard for me in many ways. I felt like a lot of programs were out of reach. I started working when I was 15 and became homeless in my late teens, on top of a lack of educational opportunities, family problems, and an unstable government.

I enlisted a little bit after 9/11 with the Marine Corps and had an opportunity to travel and live in other countries. The military was my ticket out of my negative environment. Enlisting opened so many doors that would have otherwise never been available to me. Continue reading “Why I’m Looking Forward to Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018”

In Pittsburgh, the Story of How I Made My Veteran Identity Meaningful

March 29, 2018
By Patricia Gerhauser, Platoon Leader

Patricia Gerhauser is a Navy veteran and Mission Continues rockstar. She is not only a fellowship alumna, but is supervising a current fellow, and platoon leader for the Hazelwood Platoon in Pittsburgh, Pa. Patricia was recently selected to attend this year’s Women Veterans Leadership Summit. Read her story to get to know one of our kickass attendees. Continue reading “In Pittsburgh, the Story of How I Made My Veteran Identity Meaningful”

International Women’s Day: The Unexpected Outcomes of Hitting the Trails

March 8, 2018
By Vanessa Davids, Fellow Alumna

DSC_0293
Photo by Vanessa Davids

This post originally ran on August 30, 2016. We’re sharing Vanessa’s story again today,  International Women’s Day, as and example of the many women who have found new purpose serving through The Mission Continues’ programs. We need your support to send women like Vanessa to our 3rd Annual Women’s Veterans Leadership Summit in Washington, DC in April. Donate here today.

When I left the Marine Corps, I had my future all laid out. I had big plans for returning to school, having a second child, and supporting my (then) husband’s transition from the military had me feeling like I knew where I was going. Until I didn’t. When my husband became abusive, and I was forced to finally make a choice, I had no idea where my new path would lead. All I knew was that I couldn’t stay a minute longer. Continue reading “International Women’s Day: The Unexpected Outcomes of Hitting the Trails”

“When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself”

November 30, 2017
Majken Geiman, Former Platoon Leader

For a long time I let the fear of disappointment hold me back. Life in Chicago’s south side as the eldest child of a single mother was what you’d imagine. I attended a large public high school, spent hours every day commuting on the bus and subway, failed multiple classes, pawned 35 cents off my friends daily so that I could buy reduced-price lunches, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma.

Even if I made it as far as college, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.

All of that changed when I stumbled upon the United States Army’s website. Free college and a commission as an officer? I was sold. By some incredible stroke of luck, I made the cut. That unusual success changed my entire attitude toward life.

I suddenly had people telling me I could be a leader—that I had the ability to inspire others. Being afraid to try was replaced by a belief that I could lead and change the world.

After transitioning from active duty into the National Guard I didn’t have the same type of discipline or feeling of empowerment in my life. But then a Marine friend invited me to attend a service project with The Mission Continues in Pittsburgh.

It was incredible–for the first time I found myself surrounded by people who knew what I was going through and who I could talk and joke with veterans as if I’d known them for years. Finally that sense of purpose and leadership came back.

When I decided to move to Los Angeles I didn’t know anyone, but I did know how to look up the local platoon. I ended up joining the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon, which focuses on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low income neighborhood in East LA.

The opportunity to lead the platoon came in 2015. My time as a platoon leader transformed me in ways I never expected. I no longer let fear hold me back; instead I remember my strengths as a leader.

After two years of dedication, we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights, and regularly hold service projects with and for the students.

I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw their faces light up when they built a bench completely by themselves. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences. I’ve put veterans and kids together in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it!

When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might be afraid to try.

The military helped me push myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way my mentors did, I hope I can look the youth of the next generation in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”

With your support today, veterans like myself can make an impact in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights across the country. I serve and will continue to serve all of them. Please join me by giving this year.

 

Yours in Service,

Majken Geiman

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

The Tampa Ten Join Operation Everglades City

November 18, 2017

During the weekend of October 27th-29th, a group of 30 veterans and civilians converged on Everglades City, FL, a small fishing community of roughly 400 residents. With a quarter of the community’s homes destroyed and deeply damaged by Hurricane Irma, our volunteers arrived with donations, tools and an unwavering spirit of service.

For the past two months, Floridians have faced the adversity of preparing for and recovering from the destruction that Hurricane Irma left in its wake. Measuring 650 miles wide and with storm force winds eclipsing 185 miles per hour, Irma was the strongest recorded storm in the history of the Atlantic.

With millions of residents without power and shelter, and thousands more with homes damaged and destroyed, the veteran leaders of The Mission Continues showed us once again why they are our country’s heroes.

Recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, veteran leaders and volunteers from our Service Platoons in Miami, Broward, Orlando and Tampa decided to join forces and pool resources to maximize their community impact in a community that is outside their normal purview.

Continue reading “The Tampa Ten Join Operation Everglades City”