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For as long as she can remember, Stacey Hapner wanted to be a police officer. While her career aspirations shifted to joining the United States military, her passion for serving to protect and help others has never wavered. At just 17-years-old, Stacey joined the Navy, excited to see what her future would bring.

Stacey served as a Seabee in a Naval Construction Battalion from 2008 to 2012, doing a tour of duty in both Afghanistan and Japan. In Japan, Stacey had the opportunity to establish housing, schools and other facilities to improve the lives of local people. In Afghanistan, Stacey and her battalion built housing for deployed troops, focusing on making the living conditions of soldiers as comfortable as possible. Also while touring in Afghanistan, Stacey met her husband, Tyler. The two instantly connected over their objective behind joining the Navy and the missions they would be facing ahead.

Stacey works with local children in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.

After completing her service, Stacey, a New York native, moved to Coldwater, Michigan to begin her life with Tyler. Her passion for both the military and helping others continues, as she works as a veteran service officer in the Branch County Department of Veterans Affairs. In her role, Stacey assists veterans with a variety of different needs, one of which is navigating the educational opportunities that come as part of the GI Bill. During an appointment with current Olivet College student Josh Scheidler shortly before college classes began in August 2016, Stacey said the tables turned from her helping Josh ensure his tuition was payed correctly, to Josh sharing the support Olivet provided to student-veterans.

“I had already been considering furthering my education when Josh mentioned all of the programs, scholarships and mentors for veterans at Olivet. I was like, wait a minute, you need to tell me more!” Stacey said. “He was so happy to share his experience at Olivet and put me in contact with Leslie Sullivan, the VA certifying official. I remember I emailed her that same day and she responded right away. From there, Leslie worked so hard to make sure everything worked out for me, and I am so grateful for all she has done.”

In just two short weeks, Stacey began classes as a criminal justice major with a full class load. She was even awarded the Olivet College Veterans Scholarship, equal to 50 percent of the cost of tuition. Stacey fit into campus instantly, and in her first year joined the Veterans’ Advocate Group. She has participated in many events recognizing veterans nationally and within the OC community, including the veterans panel presentation on Veterans Day and a volunteer project on Service Day polishing the veterans memorial in the college Square.

Stacey with her husband, Tyler, and two stepdaughters.

“I have always felt so welcome at Olivet. From the academic advisers to support groups and even other students, every step of my way I have had someone there to make me feel comfortable, answer my questions or help in any way that I needed,” Stacey said. Continuing to work full time in Veterans Affairs, in addition to her role as stepmother to two daughters and commuter-student status, Stacey’s schedule is anything but basic. To accommodate her busy lifestyle, Regina Armstrong, Ph.D., program director and associate professor of criminal justice, has worked with Stacey to arrange alternative testing times and independent study courses to customize her class agenda. In addition, Stacey says Leslie is the most dependable person she knows when it comes to facing problems and working tirelessly until they are solved.

While she’s not sure where she’ll end up professionally, Stacey is confident that her future holds endless possibilities. “Right now, I’m really conflicted because I love law enforcement and corrections, but I also am so passionate about helping veterans and working as a veteran service officer,” Stacey explained. With a year left until she graduates, Stacey is going to spend her time enjoying the unique opportunity she has to serve America’s veterans while OC serves her as a student-veteran.

Olivet College is proud to be designated as a veteran-friendly school for 2017 by both the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency (MVAA) and Victory Media’s Military Friendly® program for outstanding service to student-veterans. The MVAA selection is part of the agency’s Michigan Veteran-Friendly School program that creates and publishes a list of the top veteran-friendly schools in the state. Military Friendly® provides a comprehensive directory of employment, entrepreneurship and education resources nationwide for veterans and their families.

Learn more about the educational opportunities for veterans at Olivet College or contact Leslie Sullivan at 269.749.7638 or lsullivan@olivetcollege.edu. Visit campus or apply now to take the first step to become a Comet.

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