December 2018 Scholarship Recipients

December 17, 2018
Mark Freeman

Mark Freeman (Newport News, VA) retired from the Army at the rank of Master Sergeant after over 25 years of service. During his time in the Army, he worked in communication and transportation, and was later sent to school to be an Equal Opportunity Advisor. Upon transitioning from the Army, Mark got a job working in employee benefits, health insurance, group insurance, and Medicare. Now, Mark works as an insurance agent with retirement-aged clients, so he is focused on being up to date in his knowledge and skills. To that end, he will be completing the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) program, which delivers the most up to date information on retirement income planning. With this education, Mark will be able to assist more of his clients as they reach retirement age. “What I like best is helping people,” Mark says.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins (Hertford, NC) had been going to college to be a preacher when he felt a call for a different type of service. “I felt that service was on my heart – both of my parents had served. I’ve always been driven to help others,” Mark says, noting that the history of military service in his family goes back to the Revolutionary War. He spent three years in the Army as a military police officer before being medically retired after an injury led to the discovery of a heart condition. Now that Mark is fully recovered, he is thinking about what is next for his career, and he still would like to serve others but in a different way. “While I was in the military I saw so many people making poor financial decisions,” Mark says. “As an NCO, you don’t give them advice; you encourage them to go speak to advisors. Now, this is a way I can help people – I can give them advice.” To get a strong foundation that will help him enter the profession, Mark will be taking the Financial Services Certified Professional® (FSCP®) program, which will give him the crucial prospecting skills and product knowledge to survive and thrive.

Cheryl Myrick

Cheryl Myrick (Carlsbad, CA) is the spouse of a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel. A holder of the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) credential, Cheryl has spent much of her time as a military spouse volunteering for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. “I’ve got 5,100 volunteer hours, and about 3,700 of those hours were casework,” Cheryl says. She is looking to make the jump into fee-based financial advising, and her focus right now is on her natural market of military families. “I’ve seen it a lot with retiring military personnel; they don’t know how to withhold for their taxes, they don’t know how to make this transition because they don’t have someone they can sit down and talk to,” Cheryl says. “Having someone who knows what those moving parts are, what you need to do, that could take a lot of stress out of the process. I hate to see military members taken advantage of because they didn’t have the right information.” Cheryl plans to complete the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, which will give her the information and knowledge to better assist these families.

John Solomon

John Solomon (Milford, NJ) says that his time in the army turned him from a “wild teenager into a responsible young man. I give the service the credit for that.” Upon entering the Army, he joined the 82nd Airborne. “As a wild kid, I asked myself ‘what’s the most challenging, dangerous job to go into? Paratroopers appealed to me the most.” During his time on Active Duty, he spent a year in Germany, and he says he was lucky to get out when he did before the Vietnam War got too nasty. “You’d ask about someone, ‘Where’s Jim?’ and find out he’d been shipped over to Southeast Asia. Just a handful here, a handful there. It was a puzzling period for a lot of us.” Nowadays, John is a tax preparer and an Enrolled Agent with H&R Block. “Only 10% of tax professionals have Enrolled Agent status. It’s the highest certification offered by the IRS.” Not one to rest on his laurels, John is ready to learn more. He plans to complete the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program so that he can take on the more challenging cases that H&R Block handles. “The tax industry is changing – it’s not the same as it was 5-10 years ago. I need to do more than be able to offer tax preparation and tax advice. I want to continue developing and advancing my career.”

Lawrence Thompson

Lawrence Thompson (Jacksonville, FL) spent six years in the Navy as an air traffic controller and says that he enlisted after growing up listening to the war stories of his father and grandfather. “Military service is a legacy in our family,” Lawrence says. “I knew from the age of six or seven that I was going to be in the Navy.” After transitioning from Active Duty, Lawrence spent time in fast food management, and after getting his bachelor’s degree in 2006, he spent seven years working as a child abuse investigator. While completing his MBA, Lawrence met with a recruiter for Prudential, and has been working with Prudential since then. During his onboard process with Prudential, Lawrence needed to earn his Series 6 license and saved up the money by donating plasma – $40 per donation! His hard work paid off, as Lawrence says he has found his calling in financial services. “This job has been an absolute perfect fit, it really has,” says Lawrence. “I love people, and that’s one of the areas that I’ve always been drawn to – helping people better themselves.” To help him continue to help others, Lawrence will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program.

Kristina Vividor

Kristina Vividor (Lakeland, FL) says serving was never part of her plan. “I planned to go to college, graduate, and then figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Her father, a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran, encouraged her to serve, “meaning, he sent recruiters to our house!” Kristina laughs. “The Navy recruiter made me laugh and told me I could travel and see the world – so I joined the Navy.” Kristina spent over four years in the Navy and spent most of that time stationed aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear aircraft carrier. Her first job as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Fules (ABF) was below decks, cleaning jet fuel. She later became the fuels accountant on the ship. Upon a move to shore duty, she started working in the executive offices and began learning more about how the military worked. “I met a lot of different types of people, and it really opened my eyes to the world. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” After giving birth to her daughter and transitioning from Active Duty, Kristina applied for a job working as a bank teller at Credit Union. Because of her experience as a fuel accountant in the Navy, they offered her a position in the bank’s consumer credit counseling department. From here, her love for financial services grew. Since then, she has held several different positions in a few organizations and earned her series licenses. Now, Kristina is looking to the future and wants to learn more. She will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, which will equip her with all of the necessary skills to continue serving. “I want to be able to educate and empower people,” says Kristina. “I feel like I’m really good at what I do, but I want to know more.”

Joseph Voellm

Joseph Voellm (Westlake, OH) joined the Marine Corps in 2005 right out of high school. Stemming from a military family (his father was a Naval Commander and his siblings are all in the military), it was something he really wanted to do. “I had it in my mind that I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and make a difference in the world.” He was drawn to the Marine Corps due to how prestigious and tough it is, feeling this was the right decision. A highlight of his time was when he was deployed to Haiti a few days after the earthquake. Here, he handed out food and helped with the rebuilding infrastructure, making him feel like he made a difference. Now living in Ohio, Joseph is employed at the JL Smith Group. “It’s a great group to be with. I love my team and I’m learning every day.” Having recently completed the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, Joseph will be completing the Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) program, which will round out his expertise. “There’s going to be ups and downs, not everything is going to come easy. If you never give up, you never lose. You only really lose when you don't learn.”

Melissa Zales

Melissa Zales (San Diego, CA) is the spouse of an Active Duty Marine Corps Master Sergeant with over 18 years of service, seven deployments, and four moves as a family. Becoming a military spouse was not part of Melissa’s plan, but “you fall in love with who you fall in love with, and he happened to be a Marine,” she says. Early in their marriage, Melissa worked as a Physician’s Assistant until she and her husband had their first child. To get out of the house while her children were small, Melissa began volunteering with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. “They would pay for childcare while I got to be an adult for a few hours a day.” Through her work at the NMCRS, Melissa learned about the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) credential and would later go on to receive the FINRA fellowship and earn her AFC. Melissa has been a military financial counselor for the last six years, has helped over 700 families and individuals, and has delivered over 175 command briefs. By completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, and then sitting for the CFP exam, Melissa will be equipping herself with all the right tools to continue helping our military families.