2023 Pillars of Strength Scholarship Recipient
Angela Cooper is exceptional among the 70 people who have benefited from the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program since its launch in 2013. All the other beneficiaries of the scholarship, which targets caregivers of service members and veterans, have used the opportunity to work on bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Ms. Cooper, however, has her eyes on a doctoral degree from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). "As a teenager, I dreamed of receiving a doctorate degree," she explained. "However, life happens." Yet, never giving up on hope has brought me to the point of enrolling in the doctoral program at UMGC.
One of eight children growing up in Washington, D.C., Angela started her academic path at the University of the District of Columbia, studying business and behavioral health while also working and operating a small business. She finished her bachelor’s degree at UMGC before launching into a master’s program in nonprofit business.
Bert Norville, who would become Angela's husband, had been in the Army for 10 years before retiring. Angela said that Bert’s mental and health challenges began while he was in the military and continued to progress even after they married and had a son, who is now 28 years old and serving as an officer in the Navy. Since Bert started receiving treatment and having access to more resources, his condition has improved. Angela feels she now has time to reflect on herself.
Angela works at Living Word International Christian Church, and after taking many enrichment classes and working in community service and outreach, she was ordained as a minister more than 15 years ago. She has taken multiple counseling classes and received a certification in mental health to better understand her husband’s condition as well as educate the wider community on mental health. "I’m a lifelong learner," she said.
Recently, her job at the church became part-time. That finally freed her to pursue a doctorate. Angela looked around at various online programs that were affordable and decided to return to UMGC. "I was reading my emails and saw the information about the Pillars of Strength Scholarship," she said. I said to myself, "Okay, God, is this a sign that I should go ahead and apply to UMGC?" "I filled out the application with a prayer that I would be one of the recipients, and the rest is history." The scholarship pays for its recipients’ tuition and fees until they reach their degree goal.
Angela’s dream since she was a teenager has been to open a one-stop center for people in underserved communities to help them figure out their life journey and provide them with the services they need. "Helping people who are struggling mentally, physically, and spiritually is normal for me." Now that I realize my natural inner ability and strength for helping others is a "gift," I will take the knowledge and skills that I gain from the degree program and pair them with my career experiences. I can honestly say that wherever I worked, it wasn’t for the money. "I am so fulfilled by being able to touch other people’s lives."
That is why, when she received the news from UMGC that she was a scholarship recipient, she just broke down and cried. "All I could do was cry," she said. "When you are constantly pouring out on other people, sometimes you forget about yourself." You put "you" on the back burner, but then you realize you just received one of the blessings you desired. "What a wonderful feeling!"