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Here for a reason: Spouse’s talent takes her to unexpected places

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth in a series highlighting exceptional members of the Air Force family in honor of Military Family Appreciation Month.

Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and sporting a European accent most can’t quite place, Natasha Lavor is a unique find in Clovis.

Acquaintances likely know the Clovis High School Spanish teacher is married to Staff Sgt. Jason Lavor, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron structures journeyman, and came to reside in Clovis after a permanent change of station move from Louisiana.

For those with long-standing ties to the military, the tale of how Natasha came to be an Air Force spouse may seem to write itself: Airman stationed overseas falls in love with a member of the local community and takes his new bride to America, where they live happily ever after.

While romantic and highly plausible, that story is simply not Natasha’s.

Born in the Eastern European country of Montenegro to Snezana and Veselin Draganic, Natasha is the middle child of her parents’ three daughters. Growing up, Natasha had two clear-cut passions: mastering the intricacies of language and shooting hoops. Though she didn’t know it at the time, both would play an integral role in who she would become, and where she would go.

“First, I was approached by, and accepted an offer from Boston College,” Natasha said. “But due to a complication with my SAT paperwork, I would have to wait another year before attending and joining the team. Ultimately, I decided to accept a scholarship to play at a community college with the idea that I would transfer to Boston after the year had passed.”

Life had other plans for Natasha. Soon after her arrival at Cowley Community College in Kansas, the freshman tore her anterior cruciate ligament [ACL], a potentially career-ending injury in the realm of collegiate and professional sports.

“After my injury, my plans stopped being black and white,” Natasha said. “Boston College wanted to see whether I would recover before they signed me, but I received an unconditional scholarship offer from the Centenary College of Louisiana. I didn’t know what to do.”

“I decided I couldn’t take the risk,” she continued. “I couldn’t go home and put the cost of my education on my parents’ shoulders. Louisiana was willing to take me whether or not I recovered, and that was security I couldn’t pass up.”

In addition to her athletic pursuits, Natasha was making strides academically as well.

“I was a communications major at Cowley Community College,” Natasha said. “But when I came to Centenary they required me to take a foreign language course. Of the available languages, I chose Spanish and I just fell in love with it.”

Already fluent in Montenegrian, English and several other European dialects, Natasha decided to change her major from communications to Spanish, adding an additional year of study to her degree plan. Having earned a reputation as a top-notch member of the student body and athletic community, Centenary granted Natasha a fifth-year scholarship with no athletic stipulations attached.

“I was amazed,” she said. “I was able to focus on completing my degree without financial worry or commitments to basketball that could divert my focus.”

Unbeknownst to her, Natasha’s focus was about to become a bit diverted whether or not basketball was in the picture.

“I met my husband at the end of my fourth year of school,” Natasha said. “We met in April, dated long-distance when I spent that summer in Montenegro, and got engaged that October when he found out he was going to deploy.”
Natasha graduated on schedule from Centenary College and not long after, she and Jason received orders to Germany. As a native European, Natasha was overjoyed at the prospect of living in close proximity to her family for the first time in years.

“I called everyone and told them we were going to Germany,” Natasha said. “When we were about a month out from our move, the orders were changed and we were sent to Clovis instead. I was devastated. It wouldn’t have mattered if we went to the most beautiful base in California; if it was not Europe, it was not enough.”

Having only been to large cities since her 2006 arrival in the United States, Clovis was unknown territory for Natasha and the adjustment period was rough.

“I did not know what to think when we first got here,” she said. “Every time I was about to adjust, I would visit Montenegro and be shocked all over again when I returned to Clovis. I shed a lot of tears before I finally learned that my happiness was dependent on me, and realized that Clovis is home to the most giving, caring people I have ever met.”

Now a 3-year Clovis resident, Natasha’s perspective has changed significantly.

“I worked at the Chavez Child Development Center for three years and loved every minute,” Natasha said. “But just recently it occurred to me how quickly time has flown by and I decided to stop putting my career goals on the back burner. This is my second week teaching Spanish at Clovis High School and I can finally say that I am stress-free. I decorate my classroom the way I like; I teach the way I like. My colleagues and my students are amazing and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.”

Even so, Natasha is still pushing the envelope of her own ability.

“I am returning to school next semester to get my master’s in secondary education,” she said. “There are so many resources here and New Mexico places such an emphasis on bettering yourself. I do not want to look back and wish I would have taken advantage when I had the chance.”

Looking back is something Natasha has done a lot of recently. Doing so has caused her to believe more and more that everything happens for a reason.

“I was not able to attend Boston College because of a clerical error, which led me to attend community college where I was later injured,” Natasha said. “That injury caused me to go to Louisiana instead of Boston and that’s where I met my husband. My marriage brought me here, to a place that encourages education, and now I’m getting my master’s degree. I believe everything happens for a reason. If you are confused in your life right now, just give it a couple years and it will all make sense.”