S. Nicole Westry ’07 Wins T-Mobile Supplementary Scholarship for Veterans

S. Nicole Westry ’07 Wins T-Mobile Supplementary Scholarship for Veterans

S. Nicole Westry ’07 Wins T-Mobile Supplementary Scholarship for Veterans

You could say that being in the military was the “family business” in the Westry household. And Nicole Westry happily followed suit. Her father was in the Marines and her mother is still in the Army today. “It really helped her life. Once she got into the military she ended up going back to school. I saw how our lives improved after my mother joined the Army, and I wanted to be a part of that tradition,” says Westry. But before she made that decision, watching her younger siblings join the military themselves, she focused on her academics as a student. To learn more about her success as a graduate student at John Jay College, a First-Level Sargent in the Army, and an aspiring officer, we sat down with Westry and talked about her journey so far.  

“I saw how our lives improved after my mother joined the Army, and I wanted to be a part of that tradition.” —S. Nicole Westry

Finding Her Way To John Jay
Westry grew up in Atlanta, but had a cousin that went to John Jay. “I had never even seen John Jay, but I kept hearing about this school that focused education on justice, and I knew I wanted to go there,” says Westry. Once enrolled at John Jay in 2002 Westry immersed herself in College life joining student government and volunteer projects, and started an academic career that’s spanned over 17 years. During her time as an undergrad, Westry dedicated herself to helping other students, serving as Secretary on the Student Government Council. After completing her bachelor’s degree in 2007, Westry immediately enrolled in the Graduate School at John Jay, pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration.

Serving Her Country
In March of 2011, after receiving her master’s degree, Westry went to a recruiter’s office and enlisted in the United States Army. “I was the last in the family to join. They always saw me as a student, choosing academics. After I joined they were really surprised. My mother actually cried, she couldn’t believe that I joined,” says Westry. “She asked me, ‘Are you sure you sure you want to do this?’ and I told her it was something I always wanted to do.” She spent her 30th birthday in basic training, waking up at 4:00 A.M., taking orders, working out, shooting on the range, doing six-mile marches, and learning how to be a soldier. She believes it was during this time that she developed the discipline, confidence, mental and physical stamina essential for every solider. After the six-week basic training, Westry spent seven weeks in job-training in human resources and postal services, then continued on to serve in Afghanistan.

Nicole Westry

“When I was stationed in Afghanistan I remember feeling really homesick. I had to pray to get through it. Then I realized I was surrounded by people who were just as worried and homesick as me. That camaraderie and sense of belonging was the best part of my military experience.”  —S. Nicole Westry

When she was deployed to Afghanistan, Westry was in charge of the post office for nine months. “All the mail that came through my location, I was responsible for it. If packages were coming through that weren’t supposed to come through, I had to make sure to report them. I was also responsible for other soldiers, making sure that they were okay and that their wellbeing was being managed.” For Westry, being confined to space approximately the size of 10 city blocks was tough to get used to, even tougher was being separated from her family, especially during the holidays. Luckily, late night conversation with other soldiers and contractors kept her spirits up. “When I was stationed in Afghanistan I remember feeling really homesick. I had to pray to get through it. Then I realized I was surrounded by people who were just as worried and homesick as me. That camaraderie and sense of belonging was the best part of my military experience.” 

Being Back at John Jay College
After serving abroad and spending several years in the Army, Westry eventually made her way back to John Jay College to complete her ROTC training and to fulfill her goal of becoming an officer. “I’m 37 years old right now and an E5 First-Level Sargent. At 29, I joined the Army enlisted, and the Army gives you until the age of 34 to become an officer,” says Westry. She thought that her opportunity to become an officer was closed until one of her mentors told her that there was an age waiver she could receive with the CUNY ROTC program. Using an e-permit to City College via John Jay College, Westry is on track to become the first in her military family to become an officer. “They’re teaching us how to become better leaders. Showing us what you should and shouldn't do as a leader.” And now, as a member of the United States Army, Westry feels even more welcomed at John Jay. When she started at John Jay in 2002, she didn’t feel a strong military presence at the school, there wasn’t a Veteran’s Lounge at the time, but now, she’s been overwhelmed by the school’s show of support for students who’ve served, or are serving in the military. “The Veterans Association here really gives you the support that you need. Sometimes we even have social workers here that we help us navigate life as a student-veteran,” says Westry. “And the fact that organizations like T-Mobile will work with John Jay to help support Veterans is moving. I’m so grateful I was chosen to be one of the winners of the T-Mobile scholarship. When you go back to school, you can struggle monetarily since you’re paying for tuition, transit, food, and rent. Scholarships like these help so much. And without John Jay, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be successful, I wouldn’t be as motivated and I wouldn’t be as determined as I am to fulfil my dreams.”