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UMGC Global Media Center
Amber Cerchione (Springfield, VA): 2022 Pillars of Strength Scholarship Recipient

Amber Cerchione Aims to Use Education to Inspire Her Children and Community

Amber Cerchione never expected to become a caregiver. She met her husband later in his military career and didn’t know what happened in his prior deployments. It wasn’t something they talked about.  

“I knew he went to war because his nightmares were pretty bad,” she said. She discovered how bad his experiences were when he received diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.  

Balancing the daily routine of life as a caregiver, student, mother of young children and area manager of a local farmer’s market was perhaps the biggest hurdle Amber ever faced. In fact, leaving the house for simple outings—a trip to the store, a movie, watching her daughters at a dance recital—became a major source of stress.  

To manage her own self-care, Amber turned to the calendar, which she said became her best friend. “I always make sure I find time to go for a walk or a run to clear my head.” Running became such an important escape that Amber trained for and competed in two marathons, both during the height of the medical issues she was managing with her husband.

“Not everyone can take on a marathon, but there is something about completing one that makes me feel so triumphant,” she said.  

Outside of her family, education is perhaps the most important part of Amber’s life. As a recipient of one of this year’s Pillar of Strength Scholarships at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), she can continue advancing that priority. 

Her learning journey did not have a smooth start. With a stepfather in the military, Amber grew up accustomed to movement orders and being uprooted. Because her classes did not always transfer, she went almost 15 years without a high school diploma.  

When she became a caregiver, she took a long, hard look at how she might have to provide for her family. “With three young children, I set a goal to take back my education,” she said. 

Amber earned her GED in 2015 then started taking college classes. Even during a time when medical appointments dominated her life, she worked toward a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management. She had no plans to work in the health care field; she pursued the degree to better understand and advocate for her husband. She now has completed a master’s degree in management and plans to work toward a master’s in data analytics at UMGC this fall. She hopes one day to earn a Ph.D. by researching the impact that war has on children’s mental and emotional health. 

The Pillars of Strength Scholarship will help Amber continue to model the importance of education to her children. “Two of my kids have learning disabilities, and so I continue to do my best to show them that with hard work and dedication anything is possible,” she said.   

“I hope that my continued education will fuel my children’s desire to better themselves.”