Harper College event to honor women veterans
In her first semester at Harper College, Gabriela Rushing was wary of the unknown. Following four years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, it had been a while since she'd been in school. Now 23 and returning to civilian life in West Dundee in the fall of 2021, Gabriela was uncertain about how she'd fit in on campus as a veteran and - more specifically - as a woman veteran.
She was delighted to learn about Harper's Center for Student Veterans and Military-Connected Students and discover that it was hiring a student-employee. Gabriela began her new role as the center was planning an event to honor women who served during Women's History Month.
The Women Veterans Celebration will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. on Monday, March 28, at the Veterans Center, Building A, Room A137A. Gabriela recently discussed her experience as a new college student, reflected on her time as a woman in the military and addressed the importance of feeling like you belong.
How did you get involved in the Veterans Center?
I wanted to be more included at the school, to be there and feel connected to other people who served in the military. My dad was in the Marine Corps too. He said, once you enlisted, you can talk with every military member you meet. You're at ease. It's a brotherhood.
This is my first semester at Harper. [After serving in the Marine Corps,] I moved in with my cousin. She went to Harper and liked going there and being involved on campus. Being out of school for so long, I didn't know how to apply or what to do when I was debating universities and [other colleges]. The staff at Harper made everything a lot smoother. They helped me so much; they answered all of my questions.
What are you studying at Harper?
I'm majoring in computer science. When I was in the military, I was a data systems administrator, working with servers and routers and things like that. I have four years of experience in that, but I want a degree to back up my military experience. With the pandemic and people not going to work, people realized how much IT is important.
What was your experience as a woman serving in the armed forces?
During my time in the Marine Corps, I was stationed Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. My overall experience was great. I made lifelong friends and learned so many lessons. The biggest was being part of something that's bigger than yourself.
Obviously, there are some people in the military who look down on females. But the majority, especially the higher ups, would give recognition. I didn't feel like an outcast, even though in my platoon it was just me and another female out of 80. People extended a hand. Never saw us as weaker.
My mentor was a male, but I saw other females who were strong and intelligent. They made me comfortable and more confident in myself. I love the fact that the military showed me that confidence.
Why is it important to you that Harper is hosting a Women Veterans Celebration?
One percent of the U.S. are military members. An even smaller percentage of that are females. The military is male dominated. The fact that we're doing this - I'm excited about it. Females are powerful.
I love that Harper has a Veterans Center and that other people can feel included. When women go into the military and come back to civilian life, we might not fit in with other females. All my friends are men and I feel like I just know how to talk to them - I don't come across as aggressive. But, in civilian life with other women, I can feel like I come across as too strong.
With the whole celebration - it puts it out there. It' a safe space. It gives us that feeling that we are great, and we should feel proud. I know how I felt going to Harper and being uncertain about how I was going to fit in. I want other veterans to feel like I feel now.