Transitioning from military service to civilian life

Anyone who can recall the difficult transitions of their youth will surely count among them the passage from elementary school to middle school. So many things are different and the routine is less rigid and familiar, and expectations are different and less defined. This can be particularly challenging if your reading level is a bit behind your peers. But a lucky group of students facing those circumstances at Davila Middle School in Bryan, Texas are benefitting from the mentorship of a Marine veteran who is all too familiar with making this kind of difficult transition under challenging circumstances.

Melissa LeCounte, a disabled veteran of the Marine Corps, stands in her 6th grade classroom at Arthur L. Davila Middle School in Bryan, Texas. Photo courtesy of Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley.

For Melissa LeCounte, transitioning from military to civilian life was more than just packing up and moving from a military base to a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs; it also meant transitioning from familiar military duties to a new career in the civilian world.

LeCounte and her family moved to Bryan so that her husband could pursue a degree from Texas A&M University. An injury cut short her military career, creating an additional challenge. She had to adapt from the routine of military work and create her own pattern outside of that prescribed regimen.

The routine LeCounte developed was getting up every day and going to her local Workforce Solutions office to look for work. She began her job search by utilizing the many services available through Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley (Brazos Valley) to search for employment. She started the process by registering with Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) job-matching system

LeCounte attended several workshops, job clubs and met with the local Rural Veterans Career Advisor at the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) who showed her how to transfer her military skills to job skills that would be noticed by employers. The Workforce Solutions network offers career assistance with resume building, interview skills and job coaching while connecting veterans with employers.

After securing a full time job, LeCounte enrolled in the Teacher Education Alternative Certification Host (TEACH) program at Blinn College to pursue a career in teaching. While working full time, LeCounte attended classes once a week for one year in preparation of obtaining her teaching certification.

Now, as a sixth grade reading teacher for Davila Middle School, she has found her niche in life working with students that face not only the transition to middle school, but the additional challenge of reading below grade level. LeCounte is elated with her new role as a teacher and uses stories from her military career, and life in general, to synthesize the students in what they are learning each day. After her first year, she was extremely proud that her students pushed beyond their challenges, just as she did, and mastered reading beyond their grade level. She received several educator awards including Rookie Teacher of the Year.

LeCounte’s advice to veterans transitioning from military service to the private sector in Texas, “Get to a Workforce Solutions office and sign up so that you can get the help you need to be successful. They don’t just tell you but will show you how to do it.”

To access information from your local Workforce Solutions webpage, visit TWC’s Workforce Development Board Website page. For information about TWC’s programs and services for veterans, visit the Just for Veterans Web page.

LeCounte’s story is featured in the Solutions Fall 2015 Quarterly Newsletter (access full issue)