Valetta SuRae Stewart of District Heights, Md. served for 23 years in the Army, and left worried that the only skills she had to offer the civilian job market were “breaking things and killing people,” she told Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post. But then she realized she’d developed an extremely valuable aptitude as a drill sergeant: She knew how to motivate people to lose weight and get in shape. In November, Stewart earned her certification as a personal trainer, entering a field that’s in high demand thanks to a Salute You Scholarship from the American Council on Exercise.
The program granted her $700, one of 226 scholarships it’s given out to veterans in the past six months, and G.I. Bill benefits helped her study at the National Personal Training Institute. Salute You has certified nine trainers including Stewart, and sets up vets with interviews at fitness centers with the overall goal of using veterans’ skills to fight the obesity epidemic. Stewart is now completing an apprenticeship at Atlas Fitness in Washington, D.C.
Stewart plans to become an all-around wellness consultant, a path that was inspired by her work as a hairdresser between stints in the military. When you fix hair, she told Bernstein, “You learn very, very intimate things about people. And everybody was broken. This one had heart disease; this one’s mother had just died from cancer, this one had high blood pressure. . . . That’s what sent me to nutrition.”