The Los Angeles Sparks hosted Military/Veterans and First Responders Night during their battle against the Washington Mystics on Thursday. Prior to tipoff, the Sparks franchise hosted a resource panel for veterans.
Several topics were touched upon during the panel including transitioning out of the military, career opportunities and mental health. The event consisted of three discussions: a Women in the Military panel, a Transition and Entrepreneurship panel and guest speakers.
The moderator of the event was Renee Bobb of Bunker Labs.
The Women in the Military panel featured USC World Relief office director Lauren Duncan, El Camino College associate director Brenda Threatt, and Goodwill veteran employment program manager Melanie Alvarez.
Threatt was inspired to join the military in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Although she did not qualify for combat, she designed license plates that commemorated to the tragic event and anti-terrorism.
“I sent the plate to then Herb Wesson who is the Speaker of the House,” she said. “We took it to the governor and lo and behold, they adopted my plate … that plate has raised over $10 million to Defend California, [and] anti-terrorism in California.”
Alvarez’s advice for overcoming barriers as a woman is to be authentic and do what you love.
“Looking for things, looking for content that’s intellectually stimulating, gravitating towards people who have positive energy that definitely helps a lot,” she said. “I always keep in mind the women that I served with, the people who are the women in my squadron … because they’re really the ones who bring me out of my shell.”
Duncan mentioned to viewers to not succumb to their insecurities and to not believe that there are limited opportunities.
“As long as you guard your happiness, you compete only with yourself,” Duncan said. “Do not become a person who believes in a smallness mindset.”
L.A. County Department of Mental Health clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Gitlin talked about mental health during the pandemic. Many actions, like self-isolating, forgetting to eat or shower, or having cynical thoughts are normal behavior in reaction to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“The dip that many of us are seeing in our mental health is to be expected,” Gitlin said. “It’s not something we want, but it is kind of an appropriate reaction to the times that we’re navigating.”
She also shared how the apps Headspace, Virtual Hope Box and My3 could help people with their mental health.
Metro Veterans Program manager Dennis Tucker noted how it takes 30 months for a veteran to transition to civilian life. They should start preparing a year before leaving the military.
The Transition and Entrepreneurship panel consisted of US Navy Master Chief Latoya Luter, Southern California program manager Thomas McDaniel, battalion chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department Kris Larson, and Bunker Labs CEO Blake Hogan.
The panelists talked about different types of military benefits that help with college and career readiness, like the post 9/11 G.I. Bill and transition assistance workshops. For entrepreneurship, panelists expressed the importance of listening to the needs of customers and having multiple streams of income. McDaniel noted that onetonline.org was a helpful resource.
“It was introduced to me through one of my counselors,” He said. “That one website helped me develop a plan for myself.”
The L.A. Sparks has a history of creating programming for the military through their initiative “Spark the True You.” The franchise hosted resource fairs and discussions that promote, health, wellness and professional development.