If Alaina Beaudette learned anything from her five years of military service, it was how to get things done. Efficiency is essential for a full-time student who is also a full-time mom to a 16-month-old son.
Alaina Beaudette with husband, Tom, and son, Lynden.
“I'm better able to organize myself,” said the 30-year-old former Marine who hopes to become an elementary school teacher. This semester she is taking 18 units at San Diego State University in her child and family development major for a degree she hopes to complete next May.
Beaudette doesn’t have much time for the basketball games, campus clubs or other social activities that many students enjoy. Whenever she is not in class or attending to her son, Lynden, she studies.
Her husband, Tom, works full-time to support the family and helps out when he’s home, but Beaudette loads all of her classes into Tuesdays and Thursdays to help cut child care costs. On a typical Thursday, she leaves her Escondido home at 6:45 a.m. for her first class at 8 a.m., but she rarely makes it on time after dropping Lynden at day care and fighting traffic.
"I've made it there, I think, two or three times by eight o'clock,” she said. “I'm always late for that class.”
The last class in her jam-packed day concludes at 9:40 p.m. after which she has the small consolation of lighter traffic for her homeward commute.
"It's been a challenge,” Beaudette matter-of-factly admits without a trace of complaint in her voice. “I have to make a choice of whether I want to spend time studying or spend time with my husband, because none of that happens during the day.”
Making it work
The couple met when both were assigned the same duty with the Marines. She worked, while Tom earned his degree and now the roles are reversed.
"Tom and I were conditioned to this,” Beaudette explained. “We were used to the sacrifices that we have to make in order to get the job done. For us, it's a part of life, something we're used to and we make it work."
The sacrifices include cutting back whereever possible. “I'm the oldest of five and I've always been a penny pincher,” claimed Beaudette, who says she and Tom have always kept a tight reign on spending.
The G.I. Bill helps. It’s a government program that subsidizes veterans for a limited time while they are enrolled in classes. Beaudette said without it, there is no way she would be at SDSU.
“It's been a lifesaver, literally, and without it we would be struggling right now," she said, estimating that when all her family’s bills are paid each month she is left with $50.
Among her biggest expenses each semester are textbooks. In one class alone she has two required books costing almost $100 each.
"They're definitely not cheap,” she said, “and when you have multiple textbooks for class it really starts to add up." So she shops online to find the best possible deals.
This semester, Beaudette was one of 40 student veterans to receive a $250 SDSU Bookstore gift card from the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center. Her name was drawn from a group of veterans who had signed up for the gift cards.
“I certainly wasn't expecting to get it,” she said. “It made my week because every penny helps.”
Making dreams reality
As Beaudette sees it, she is no different from the more than 3,000 other veterans, active duty military, reservists and dependents currently enrolled at SDSU. Like other students, they juggle jobs and family responsibilities with busy schedules. Any break they can catch is deeply appreciated.
That’s why the Alumni Association is launching a special campaign this holiday season to help SDSU’s student veterans succeed. Alumni are joining forces with the SDSU Bookstore to supply veterans with items they need.
The goal is to raise $20,000 to donate to student veterans in the form of bookstore gift cards. For every $90 alumni donate, Aztec Shops will contribute an additional $10, making the total amount for veterans $100.
The gift cards may be applied toward books, clothing, test materials and other needed supplies. A fully tax-deductible donation of any amount makes a big difference to truly grateful students like Beaudette.
“We all have our own struggles for sure, and what alumni are doing by making these opportunities available is amazing,” she said. “The people who donate help make our goals and dreams reality and I'm thankful for it."