When Mariel Barreras married a soldier, she knew she would be required to relocate over and over again as her husband was assigned to different bases.

She also knew that she wanted the best education possible for her children despite the constant changes in address. So Barreras decided to homeschool the couple’s 6 boys, now ages 2 to 12.


The Accidental Advocate            

What Barreras didn’t anticipate was that her decision to educate her children at home would ultimately lead her to seek additional education for herself. In 2012, Barreras founded the Home School Association for Military Families (HAMF), a nonprofit organization that provides resources, support, and community connections to families who share Barreras’s passion for homeschooling. As HAMF grew to encompass the work of nearly 25 volunteers across the globe, helping hundreds of families, she realized that she needed to learn more about operating a nonprofit. She investigated several schools and decided to enroll in Capella University’s Master of Public Administration.

“I hoped the degree from Capella would provide me with a better understanding of the nonprofit industry,” Barreras says. “I also thought it would help me build an organization that was stronger and more sustainable.”


Accessible and Affordable

Capella’s program appealed to Barreras in part because it was fully accessible online. That meant that if her family relocated, she wouldn’t have any problem completing the degree. And the flexibility to do coursework at any hour of the day or night was also attractive: In addition to running her own household and HAMF, Barreras also serves as a Family Readiness Group leader—a social-support role—on her husband’s military base, so finding time to study was often challenging. When an hour or two was available, she wanted to get down to work immediately.

Military spouses qualify for tuition discounts under the GI Bill®, and Capella serves many individuals and families involved with the military. Barreras says she found Capella’s program was affordable and enrollment counselors were well-versed with the financing options available to her.

Her Capella education provided Barreras with foundational skills in running a nonprofit. She learned how to write and manage grants, how to find funding sources, how to hire employees, how to manage volunteers, and more. She also found the technology interfaces easy to use and the curricula straightforward.

Juggling studies with her work on the military base, her parenting responsibilities, and her nonprofit leadership duties was never easy, Barreras admits. But earning a master’s degree was definitely worth the effort: “I found that I almost always wanted to study,” she says, “because I was learning something that was important to me.”


Learn more about Capella’s MPA program. 

GI Bill ® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.