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Former Marine seeks to aid veterans

Student uses troubled past to assist others

By Lissette Argenal, staff writer
On November 14, 2012

Through her pain and struggles, health and human services major Nicole Alexander developed a new sense of purpose and is determined to motivate others through her story.
Because she was abandoned by her parents, Alexander said she and her five siblings were raised in a broken home by her stepfather.  Facing sexual, verbal and physical abuse at a young age, Alexander battled depression.  
Tired of the emotional agony, Alexander would face another series of obstacles while paving the way for a new life.
Another form of fighting
On her 18th birthday, Alexander decided to enlist in the Marines.
Alexander said because she was against having her friend enlisting as well, she was going to give up on her original plan until Career Day was held at Berkeley High School.
"(I) was going to tell the Marine recruiters what I thought about him trying to recruit my friend," Alexander said. "That was when the recruiter challenged me, which ultimately resulted in my enlistment to the Marine Corps."
Alexander was shipped out 10 days after her graduation to boot camp. From there she was sent to the Marine Combat Training (MCT) in North Carolina and later, the Military Police Training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The Marines was the first time she experienced a clean start to her troubled past.
Alexander was stationed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) located in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Despite her work as a radio dispatcher, road unit, front-gate and vehicle registration, staying at MCAGCC would not last long after she received an honorable discharge.

Discovering a divorce
Alexander moved to Oregon for a few months, which led to the beginning of a relationship with a man over the phone.
She would then get married three months  after that first conversation in Jan. 2006.
Alexander said that the marriage was supposed to be a safe and hopeful balance for her, but instead she encountered instability and heartbreak.  
She became involved in domestic violence for four years before being divorced in July 2010.  She, however, did not know she was divorced until six months after the occurrence in January 2011.
Alexander said she called her husband at the time, seeking information about his deployment as a Marine.
"He was getting deployed to Afghanistan and a wife is supposed to know what is going to happen to her husband," Alexander said. "We had plans to finish what we were going to do before we could restart our lives together."
Alexander said she was in shock when her ex-husband Sam broke the news.
"(He said) baby, I am sorry to tell you  that we have been divorced since July," Alexander said.

Knowledge is power
At 21, Nicole was convicted of a felony charge as she was an accessory to a robbery.
As a result to her crime, Alexander was sentenced to serve eight months in jail and three years of felony probation.
"It was frustrating because I couldn't get the jobs I wanted because I couldn't pass the background check," Alexander said. "That took a toll on my self-esteem."
Because of her low self-esteem, it led her to her educational goal of getting an associate degree in health and human services.
"I needed to go to school to learn something and my counselor suggested health and human services," Alexander said.
Aminta Mickles, health and human services department Chairperson and director of Peer Support Wellness Center, said when having a life like Alexander, a person should look for someone to help them and to tell them to never give up.
"Nicole is a young lady who has gone through the storms of life and has come out with a shining armor," Mickles said. "We know that people from all walks of life have to deal with different life circumstances and everybody needs help at one time or another."
Program Manager of the Peer Support Wellness Center Mady Willie said Alexander has gone through a lot in her life, but is an inspiration to many.
"A lot of the things that health and human services are involved in would not get off the ground if it wasn't for Nicole," Willie said.
Health and human services major Ada Brown said having people like Alexander has been helpful to many in the program.
"It means a lot to the community and young women who are struggling with their identities," Brown said. "To see someone like Nicole is empowering." 
Helping veterans with their issues
Currently through the Peer Support Wellness Center, Alexander has launched the Veterans Peer Support center, which is open to students and the community.
"Because of my personal experiences, I know it can be a difficult transition from a military lifestyle as a veteran or coming from the military back into the real world," Alexander said.
Mickles said because the center does not serve the needs of the veteran population, having Alexander gives students a closer and personal view of how they may feel.

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