From Service to Studio

Valery Liriano

From Service to Studio

U.S. Marine Valery Liriano plans to put her Business Management degree to use by opening her own dance studio.

| By: Britten, Casey

It was the challenge of the Marines that appealed to Valery Liriano.

“Physically and mentally, being a Marine is just a lot more demanding than other branches of the military,” says the 23-year-old Appleton native. “I thought, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything in life. And I did it.”

Valery enlisted in September 2018 after graduating from Appleton West High School, headed to South Carolina for basic training and served for four years. Other than a four-month deployment in Australia, most of her time was spent at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.

Her military service ended in September of 2022, and she returned to Appleton to get a college degree. She enrolled in the Business Management program at Fox Valley Technical College. When she graduates in 2024, she plans to get a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship at UW-Green Bay.  

Valery’s eventual goal is opening her own business. “I really want to bring an adult contemporary dance studio here to Wisconsin. There’s a lot for kids, which is great, but adults need hobbies too and a way to express themselves through a fun activity.”

Why dance? It just so happens that this Marine is also an aspiring dancer who found comfort in the activity during a difficult period of her life.

Dancing as Therapy

As a Marine, Cpl. Valery Liriano’s Military Operational Specialty (MOS) was in communications, as a radio operator. Radio operators control and maintain various types of radios and communication equipment and are responsible for providing communication support during missions and operations.

“We would make sure that communication between us and our friendly units was able to happen,” she explains. “If anything happened to them, there has to be a way we can communicate with them. Without communication, operations really can't happen because there's no way to contact someone else on the other side of the desert.”

Valery liked her job and the feeling of purpose it gave her. However, while she was in California, things started going downhill.

“I was getting bullied, harassed and ostracized. I really tried to fight for myself. I looked for help, but I wasn’t being heard. I got to a really low point in my career.”

She needed an outlet. “Since high school, I had always been interested in dance, but didn’t have the confidence to pursue it,” she says. “So I started doing some research, found a studio in San Diego, and I was like, ‘You know what? I think the drive is worth it. I'll do 45 minutes to go to San Diego from time to time to see if I like it.’ And it was worth it; it was a way for me to build my confidence back up and pursue something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Realizing her Dream

Now that Valery’s service is done and she’s enrolled in classes, she’s learning the skills she needs to achieve her goal of opening her adult dance studio.

“I really like my classes. I’m learning a lot,” she says. “I also like the teachers and how they communicate with students. I ask a lot of questions, and they’re always available and understanding.”

Choosing FVTC was a simple decision for Valery. “I chose Fox Valley Tech because it was close to home, but also because I had been out of school for so long, I wasn’t quite ready to go into a university experience right off the bat.”

She’s also grateful for the help of FVTC Veterans Resource Center staff members Jeremy Hanson and Crystal Jome. “The admissions process was pretty simple. After I applied, Jeremy and Crystal explained the paperwork they needed, and within a month everything got approved. I didn’t have to worry about my benefits not reaching in time.”

While she completes her degree, Valery also has a work-study job in the Veterans Resource Center. “Mostly I answer questions student veterans have and help Jeremy and Crystal with projects,” she explains. “I love this job because it provides me with a lot of flexibility, and I love working with other veterans and helping them get their questions answered.”

The staff in the center appreciate Valery's help and positive attitude. Crystal says, “Valery is very motivated and has a fun and bubbly personality which makes her a pleasure to work with.”

She is also continuing her dance lessons, which involves regular travel to a Milwaukee studio. “I love it. It's a way to escape from reality and tap into another part of my persona. That's why I like dance so much,” she says. She takes lessons in hip hop, contemporary and heels, just to name a few. “I like all kinds of dancing. I'll try it all.”

Owning the Experience

While Valery didn’t have an ideal experience during her time as a Marine, she recognizes that it has made her stronger.

“My time in service wasn't the best, but I’m still glad I did it,” she says. “If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be that really shy girl who didn't open up and talk. I’m much more vibrant and outgoing now. So although I don't think anyone should go through anything terrible to get to that point, the experience has made me the person I am today and I am thankful for that.”

And she’s proud to call herself a Marine. “When I mention my service, people assume I was in the Army or the Navy. They’re shocked to learn I was in the Marines,” she says.

“I think it's because women get this stereotype where it's like, ‘oh, a woman could never do that’—which is such BS by the way—but it happens a lot more often than you think. But I was able to push through. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. Everything in life is a mind game. If you push through that, you'll be able to do anything.”

Veterans Services at Fox Valley Technical College

The staff members in the Veterans Resource Center help students with veteran education benefits and serve as a liaison between our students and various federal, state and local agencies. Each year, we process about $1 million in education benefits for our veteran students who answered the call to serve our country before starting their academic journey.

They can be reached at or 920-735-5651. Learn more >