COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — If you spend any time around retired Army Col. Nanette Brédé Mueller and her therapy dog, Disney, you know she's good at making connections. And if you're transitioning out of the military, she'll probably ask you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"The first thing she said to me was 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and when you're 55 years old, at that time, that's kind of a daunting question to ask," said Paul Price.
Retired Air Force Col. Paul Price met Brédé Mueller at her volunteer-led weeklong workshop called Prep Connect 360. That was in 2014. Now, nearly 10 years later, Price is the Director of Operations at Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs.
"I never left Mt. Carmel," Price said. "I continue to stay here and try to walk in the path that she already showed. I was trying to take care of people."
For 10 years the Prep Connect 360 workshops were hosted at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center in El Paso county and Mt. Carmel. They provided additional training like resume writing, networking, and interviewing skills to active-duty military, veterans and their spouses to help them transition to civilian jobs.
"When you take off the uniform, your identity kind of goes on that hanger because your rank was there your branch," Brédé Mueller said. "The fact that you're in an Army uniform, or Marine uniform, that's gone and now you're walking into a business meeting in civilian clothes that has none of that identification on it. So now you have to reidentify yourself, you have to redefine yourself."
Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Dean Miller showed up for the Prep Connect 360 workshop once he realized trying to get a job as a civilian was not as easy as he expected.
"There's an assumption that the employer knows who the veterans are, and what they bring to the table for that employer," Miller said. "In many cases it's just not true. The ability to tell how your skill set is a value to that employer is a skill all in itself and, unfortunately, I know I didn't leave the service with that skill and Nanette brought it to the table for many of us for sure."
Miller's story has a successful ending, too. He's now the Chief of Media Operations at the United States Air Force Academy. He credits Brédé Mueller with helping him get there.
"She formed a coalition of volunteers to help her, over 50 community organizations ultimately that helped her, and the end result is 900 successful families and service members who have transitioned into our community," said Miller. "That's a story people need to know."
It's that story, that commitment to this community that have earned Brédé Mueller the News 5 Jefferson Award.
"Thank you so much," Brédé said.
Brédé Mueller closed the doors to Prep Connect 360 in 2022 as veteran unemployment in the Pikes Peak region dropped to 2 percent down from 12.7 percent when she started a decade earlier. However, Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center and the Pikes Peak Workforce Center continue to help our military members transition to civilian life.
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