By Peter Miller ’84
Hannah Graydon ’19 grew up in Westfield, graduated from high school in 2012, and enlisted in the Massachusetts Air National Guard out of Barnes Air National Guard Base, becoming a security forces police officer. Two years of college at Holyoke Community College were split with an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Graydon transferred to Westfield State in the fall of 2016 as a criminal justice major and art minor. Last summer, she took her aspirations to Washington, D.C., where she interned in a highly competitive program with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The start of that opportunity was engineered on campus.
As a member of the military, Graydon has access to the University’s Military Community Excellence Center, where students who are military connected (active, guard, reserve, veteran, and spouse/children) can study, relax, decompress, and receive assistance in achieving a smooth transition into college life and, later, a career. Lisa Ducharme runs the center and offers support to students who pass through its doors.
Through Ducharme, Graydon learned of a program offered in Washington, D.C., by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars and Prudential Financial. The VET (Veteran’s Employment Trajectory) is a fully funded, 10-week immersive internship program designed to help translate the extensive skills one develops in the military and college into a successful career.
“I realized what an opportunity it would be,” says Graydon, noting that Ducharme encouraged her to learn more. Many Westfield State students have interned at The Washington Center, but Graydon was the first to be accepted into the VET program. She was one of 25 accepted from an applicant pool of 200 and spent the summer in the ATF’s Special Operations Division, which is responsible for tactical operators, tactical K-9, crisis negotiations, and operational medics.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” Graydon says. “To be a female veteran representing your university for the first time is a pretty exciting position to be in.”
Graydon says her colleagues in her unit at Barnes were impressed with her internship. “I’m not only representing Westfield State but also Barnes,” she says. “I wasn’t nervous, and I think that is because Westfield State and the Air Force prepared me well.”