Posts Tagged ‘Army’

In 2005, Laura Gomez-Clinton learned that her husband, SSG Juan Hernandez, had been injured while serving in Iraq. She spent the next two years by his side as he recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Though his physical wounds eventually healed, SSG Hernandez could not overcome his PTSD. He passed away in October 2009, leaving Laura to raise their children, Abby and Aaron.

Laura was suddenly a 26-year-old widow with two young children. She took the time to mourn, but quickly realized that she needed to take control of her life and provide for her children. She thought about the care and attention that her husband had received from the nursing staff at Walter Reed and decided that she, too, could offer that support to others.

In 2010, Laura enrolled in Emory University. With the assistance of a $3,000 Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Laura is just a few months away from completing her Nursing degree. This May, she will graduate from Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing with her BSN.

Laura has excelled academically and has already been offered full-time employment in the Emergency Department of Spalding Regional Hospital and the OR at Emory University Midtown Hospital. She says, “The hardest part is behind me. I am so proud of my husband’s service and I know that he would be proud of what I have accomplished for our family. Knowing that I have the support of this scholarship means so much to me. Thank you!”

Laura is one of five scholars to receive the Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. Heartland 4 Heroes and ThanksUSA will be holding their 2nd Annual Golf Tournament Fundraiser, in conjunction with Red Cloud Food Services, Inc. on April 7, 2014, at The Governor’s Club in Brentwood, Tennessee. 

Heartland 4 Heroes/ThanksUSA Scholarships benefit the spouses and children of those serving in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


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Today is #GivingTuesday and ThanksUSA has joined with thousands of non-profits around the country to celebrate this national movement dedicated to celebrating giving and volunteering.

Together we can support the men and women of the U.S. military by providing their families with the gift of a college scholarship.

Give The Gift of Gab

Donate your Facebook status or Tweet – tell your friends about how you support military families with ThanksUSA
Follow ThanksUSA on social media
Twitter – @ThanksUSA
Facebook /ThanksUSA
Share your #unselfie on social media – Take a pic, tag it #unselfie #givingtuesday and #ThanksUSA and upload it to your social networks.


Help us give a gift that will last well beyond the holiday season.


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Allen_Eric 2012.

ThanksUSA is currently accepting scholarship applications for the 2013-2014 academic year. Over the past seven years, ThanksUSA has awarded over 2,800 scholarships (worth nearly $8.5 million) to deserving military spouses and dependent children. $3,000 American Airlines/ThanksUSA Scholarship recipient Eric Pierre Allen is an excellent representation of these scholars. The Army dependent’s unique combination of majors, combined with his giving spirit and drive to succeed, really make him stand out.


Eric’s father, First Sergeant Norman Allen, U.S. Army, has been serving our great nation for over twenty five years. Knowing life only as a military child, Eric travelled often and was exposed to a variety of cultures.

As a teen, Eric found himself enthralled with the vibrant graphics of Japanese animation. Though he enjoyed the visual styles of anime, he couldn’t fully understand the symbolism and cultural references. Soon, his quest to grasp the intricacies of anime led to a fascination with Japanese history and culture.

In high school, Eric had the opportunity to focus on his Japanese interests as a student of the Internal Baccalaureate Program. He explains, “I did my senior thesis paper on the Samurai Code of Bushido and how it affected the mentality of the Kamikaze pilots. This is when I gained a great passion for Japanese culture and language.”

When he entered the University of Texas at Austin to study accounting, Eric knew that he also wanted to continue his Japanese studies. During his freshman year, Eric attended a fair to learn about various campus student groups. Interested in joining an organization that would complement his business studies, Eric stopped by a particular group’s table only to find it unoccupied. The neighboring table happened to be hosted by the Asian Business Students Association. Eric struck up a conversation with ABSA’s Internal Vice President and accepted her enthusiastic invitation to join.

Now, nearly three years later, Eric is pursuing his Masters in Professional Accounting and B.A. in Japanese Language and Culture. He has become involved in many campus organizations including Student Government, Liberal Arts Council, Japanese Association, and Black Business Students Association. He is also a DJ and show host for the campus’s Chop Suey Radio and he has continued his involvement in the ABSA. In fact, Eric currently serves as the ABSA’s Internal Vice President – the same position of the officer who invited him to join during his freshman year.

Eric believes that all college students should seek out campus organizations and activities in order to make the most of their educational experience. He adds, “Through all of the organizations I have been involved with, I have gained valuable connections with people that will transcend college.”

As his junior year at UT Austin concludes, Eric is preparing for what may be his most memorable year yet. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Eric’s collegiate majors will culminate into an immersive learning experience with studies abroad in Osaka and Tokyo.

After completing his undergraduate degrees and earning his CPA, Eric plans to gain practical experience in the United States before pursuing an international career. Eventually, he hopes to earn his PhD in Japanese history and become a college professor.

Considering his academic achievements thus far, I’m sure Eric will accomplish every goal he sets for himself. As the 2012-2013 academic year concludes, I hope to bring you more highlights from our deserving scholars. Some may be wrapping up their first year of college, while others are graduating. If you find any of these ThanksUSA scholarship recipients as inspiring as I do, I encourage you to make your tax deductible donation today.

“All of my accomplishments so far have been because of generous people like you. Thank you again for your donation.” – Army dependent Eric Allen

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Sabrina Shah 2013Sabrina Shah intends to create a safe and healthy future for developing children. With the financial assistance of a $3,000 Jackson Casey Fund/ThanksUSA scholarship, Sabrina is completing her final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Since 2009, Sabrina has received ThanksUSA scholarships totaling $12,000. In just a few months, she will earn degrees in both Psychology and Media & Communication Studies.


Sabrina’s interest in psychology began early. She often read articles or watched videos that focused on the subject. When she enrolled in an AP Psychology class in high school, Sabrina realized that she wasn’t merely learning facts; she truly understood and enjoyed every psychology lesson that was being taught.

After exploring several disciplines, Sabrina decided to focus on developmental psychology. Even as a teen, she was starting to realize that “troubled” students were the result of their environment.

Kinza & Sabrina Shah

Kinza & Sabrina Shah

Sabrina is most interested in combining her majors to study the effects of media on the social development of children. Through her studies and research, she has realized that media can be used to promote focus and learning in the classroom.

One of Sabrina’s most fascinating research projects involved pediatric cancer patients. Her team created virtual reality helmets that patients wore during treatments. Watching positive imagery produced a calming effect that distracted the young children during painful or scary treatments. Sabrina believes that the use of such media can actually alleviate or prevent psychological trauma.

Though she is always eager to experiment with, and learn from, different fields of psychology, Sabrina reports that she always returns to developmental psychology. Like most enthusiastic students, Sabrina belongs to groups and clubs that enhance her learning experience. She is member of the UMBC Philosophy Club and the Psychology Honors Society (Psi Chi), and has participated in the Model UN since high school.

Besides study related activities, Sabrina devotes much of her time to charitable organizations. She is most involved with Challah for Hunger, which raises funds to fight hunger and poverty through the sale of homemade challah bread.

As she nears graduation, Sabrina is preparing to continue her education, possibly at Cornell University, with the intention of earning her PhD in Developmental Psychology. With such dedication to both her major field of study and helping others through her charitable work, Sabrina is likely to impact many lives.

I think it’s important to note that Sabrina is not the only successful collegiate in her family. In 2006, her older brother, Zain, received a $5,000 ThanksUSA scholarship for his studies at Brooklyn College. Zain is now pursuing a career in computer engineering. Younger sister, Kinza, is off to a great start at Towson University where she is majoring in Speech Pathology.

Sabrina, her mother Tasneem, and sister Kinza

Sabrina, her mother Tasneem, and sister Kinza

As Sabrina prepares for graduate school, Kinza is preparing to apply for a 2013-2014 ThanksUSA scholarship. Applications will be accepted between April 1 and May 15, 2013, and potential applicants are encouraged to register for a reminder.

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Welcome back to Scholarship News! Now that ThanksUSA scholarship recipients are adjusted to campus life and have established their routines, I will post this weekly feature to introduce supporters to some of our outstanding scholars. Thanks to the generosity of our corporate sponsors, individual supporters, and fundraising campaigns, ThanksUSA was able to award over 300 scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year!

For the first installment of 2012-13, I am honored to introduce Army dependent Danielle Lomax. Danielle received a $3,000 Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship to continue her Public Relations and Sports Management studies at Howard University. This week, the “young urban professional with a passion for public relations, community relations, and sports management,” shares some her recent academic accomplishments and lets her military pride shine.


Danielle was just a freshman in high school when her father, LTC Dwight Lomax, USA (Ret), deployed to Afghanistan. She recounts, “It was definitely one of the hardest experiences that I have ever had to endure. I spent an entire year cringing every time the telephone or doorbell rang. I am so grateful that my father was able to return to the U.S. safely. Some families haven’t been as fortunate as mine.”

Though he retired from the Army a few years ago, LTC Lomax’s dedication to military service continues. Dedicated to creating future leaders through education, he spearheaded the first JROTC class at Lake Braddock Secondary in Burke, Virginia.

Danielle’s pride in her father and his Army career are evident. When asked about being raised in the military, Danielle said, “My dad’s service in the US Army has awarded him with the opportunity to travel the world and meet a plethora of influential people including my amazing mother (who has also served in the US Army). He is the first member of his family to not only serve in the military but to also receive a college diploma.”

Grateful for her own opportunity to attend college, Danielle knew the importance of pursuing the right major. Since childhood, she had been interested in sports. She played soccer, learned tae kwon do, and became a cheerleader. Though her participation in multiple sports was rewarding, Danielle realized that she was much more interested in what was going on “behind the scenes.” She soon discovered that an academic focus in the field of sports management would be the perfect fit.

Currently in her junior year at Howard, Danielle has already gained valuable experience in preparation for a successful career. Last year, she served as the Athletics Coordinator for the Howard University Student Association. The role gave her the opportunity to “market” Howard’s sports program by hosting events and programs that eliminated the gap between student-athletes and the rest of the student body.

Danielle also interned with the Sports Programming department at Sirius XM. She reports, “Interning with Sirius XM provided my first glimpse of the world of sports business.” She also began a blog, American Sports Addiction (click to visit), which she explains, “exposes Internet readers to (sports) issues that don’t usually make headline news.”

Many sports enthusiasts would be envious of Danielle’s recent study abroad in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics. “Studying abroad during the Summer Olympics introduced me to the global sports market. It definitely broadened my view of the sports industry and solidified my decision of entering the sports marketing industry. Sports are one of the few commonalities that connect people from every corner of the globe,” she says.


Broadening her education through such experiences has encouraged Danielle to consider employment outside of the United States. She explains, “As we move toward a more globalized economy, we must continue to be open to working with other cultures in foreign environments.”

Danielle will certainly be entering a more competitive job market if she seeks international employment. She has already proven herself to be a dedicated student and has made time to participate in campus organizations such as the Student Association, Honors Program, Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity, Public Relations Student Society of America, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

Danielle maintains a balance between academics, organizational participation, and her social life through strict time management. She advises, “Whether you’re using a tablet, smart phone, laptop or an old school planner, use it to plan your day. I live by a planner. My day is programmed and synchronized from the minute that I wake up. Organization is key.”

Danielle’s discipline, work ethic, and self-motivation have helped her become the successful, confident scholar that she is today. The ThanksUSA team congratulates Danielle on receipt of her Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship and we encourage you to continue your support of military dependents like her.

“I am very grateful for organizations such as ThanksUSA. It’s no secret that the cost of a attaining an education increases each year. As a college junior in the Nation’s Capitol, I am often faced with financial hardships. The Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship will help pay for my tuition for the fall semester.” – Danielle Lomax

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Ying Wang’s family could not be prouder…with the assistance of $6,000 in ThanksUSA scholarships, the Army dependent graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Emerson College with her Marketing Communications degree. During her final two years at Emerson, Ying received consecutive $3,000 ThanksUSA scholarships sponsored by Intelligent Decisions Inc. and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

With a desire to serve her country, Ying recently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. Remaining dedicated to continuing her education, Ying will be attending law school while serving as a platoon leader for the Army Reserves 743rd Transportation Unit. Congratulations Lt. Wang! We look forward to updates on your continuing education and service to our nation.

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In the past two years, Army dependent Devon Cooley has received $6,000 in ThanksUSA Scholarships, sponsored by Goldman Sachs Gives and LM&O Advertising. On Friday, May 4th, Devon graduated from the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences with High Honors and was recognized for having the highest GPA in her degree program.

Devon is looking forward to beginning her training with Teach For America in Atlanta, GA. This Fall, she will begin her journey as a Secondary English teacher in the Greater New Orleans, LA. Devon’s future plans include graduate school and traveling. Devon was featured in a Scholarship News blog earlier this Spring and you can read more about her plans and great advice to new undergrads here. The ThanksUSA team congratulates Devon on her academic accomplishments and we wish her all the best with her teaching career!

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The ThanksUSA team congratulates Army dependent and ThanksUSA scholarship recipient, Nicole Cook, on her recent graduation from Stevenson Unviersity! The daughter of Sergeant 1st Class, David Cook, U.S. Army (Ret), Nicole has received a total of $9,000 in Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarships to help fund her elementary education studies. Nicole is eager to begin her career as a teacher and we’re happy to report that she will be joining the faculty of Carroll County Public Schools.


Nicole’s name may be familiar to ThanksUSA supporters because of her assistance with ThanksUSA outreach events, receptions, and fundraisers. Most recently, she represented ThanksUSA scholarship recipients at the 5th annual ThanksUSA Golf Tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Prior to the event, Nicole appeared with ThanksUSA Chairman and CEO, Bob Okun, on Let’s Talk Live to speak about ThanksUSA’s mission and the golf fundraiser.

Please join us in wishing Nicole and all recent graduates well with their budding careers or continued educational journeys…our outstanding scholars deserve our support and we hope to bring you more highlights from the Class of 2012!

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Our congratulations to Army dependent and ThanksUSA scholar, Christine Nussio, on earning her B.A. History degree from Christendom College! Since beginning her studies in 2008, Christine received $9,000 in ThanksUSA Scholarships, a portion of which were sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and ESA Foundation.

Though he is currently serving in Afghanistan, Christine’s father, Colonel Rick Nussio, U.S. Army, wanted Christine to know that he’d always be there for her. He sent her a photo of himself, she says, “In case I needed him.” As her name was announced, Christine proudly walked across the stage, photo in hand.

Christine will be spending the summer with her mother and five sisters anxiously waiting,  “to welcome home our hero from this year-long tour in July.” Next, she will begin preparations for graduate school. Christine will be attending Catholic University of America to earn her Master’s degree in Secondary Education, with a concentration in Social Studies.


She explains, “This is in preparation for a career teaching history at the high school level. Though it took some time to discover, I realized that teaching high school history was the perfect way to combine my love for history and desire to spend my life helping form and educate the youth of tomorrow. My experiences as an apprentice teacher as part of Christendom College’s Teaching Practicum made me more eager than ever to begin this work. Participation in this program was just one of the many gifts I received while at Christendom, and I must extend my heartfelt thanks to ThanksUSA for helping to make this possible.”

She continues, “Without you I could never have accomplished all that I did in college: leadership and volunteer experience, friendships with peers and professors, rewarding studies, a Summa Cum Laude diploma, a semester study abroad, and formative opportunities preparing me for the career path of my choice. Thank you!”

ThanksUSA is honored to have been a part of Christine’s undergraduate experience. We have watched her grow from an eager high school senior to a confident scholar ready to educate and inspire the next generation. Congratulations, again, Christine!

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For Army dependent Devon Cooley, “It feels like only yesterday when I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.” Now, only weeks away from graduating from Michigan State University, Devon is busy preparing to be a Corps Member of Teach for America in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Throughout Devon’s undergraduate studies, she has received $6,000 in ThanksUSA Scholarships including a $3,000 LM&O Advertising/ThanksUSA Scholarship for her final year. Devon will graduate from MSU with high honors, earning her B.A. in Advertising with a minor in Women’s Studies.

Devon explains that she was initially attracted to the field of advertising “because of its unique combination of psychology, creativity, and media.” Along the way, however, Devon’s minor helped shift her career focus. “I have decided to pursue a career pathway that strives to correct the pressing social issues of contemporary society. My minor has helped me strengthen my understanding of the intersectionality of the many different types of disadvantages faced by citizens across the country and throughout the world,” she says.

Recognizing inequity in education inspired Devon to apply for her position with Teach for America. She explains, “Everyone deserves the opportunities that a quality education can provide. I’m looking forward to making a difference in the classrooms as a Secondary English teacher.”

Devon also plans to pursue graduate school in the future, but has some sound advice for potential and current undergrads saying, “I recommend for all undergraduate students to dive into campus life! They need to try new things and not be afraid of a busy schedule. It is incredible how fast my college experience has gone by… I took advantage of as many opportunities for involvement as I could, which has enabled me to make the most of my time at MSU. I have met several new people, developed my resume, and discovered new interests through my participation.”

Even with her busy campus schedule, Devon appreciates the importance of making time for her family. She explains, “My father has been stationed across the country or in the Middle East for the majority of his service. Even now, the closest to my family as he has ever been, he is separated by a six or seven hour drive. I have learned to perfect the balance of time that I devote to my friends, my studies, and my relatives. This hasn’t always been easy as a college student, but it has certainly helped me mature into an adult with a healthy respect for family matters. Now, when my family is reunited, everyone understands how special it is to have one another.”

Devon’s family is surely beaming with pride as they prepare to celebrate her graduation! The ThanksUSA team is honored to have been a part of Devon’s undergraduate studies and we look forward to updates from her Teach for America experience. We remind all readers that scholarship applications for the 2012-2013 academic year are being accepted through May 15, 2012 and complete details can be found here. We close this week’s Scholarship News with some words of thanks from Devon:

The financial assistance that I have received from LM&O Advertising and ThanksUSA has been invaluable to my education. Financing college has become increasingly difficult; yet the importance of obtaining a college degree has also become increasingly important. Without the help of ThanksUSA scholarships, I would not have been able to have such an incredible experience at MSU. I am grateful to have had the privilege of achieving a minor in addition to my major and to have experienced studying abroad.

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Stephanie Larumbe is a compassionate soul who is learning the necessary skills that will enable her to bring comfort and healing. A junior at New College of Florida, Stephanie is applying her $3,000 ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship towards her biology and psychology studies with plans to continue on to medical school and eventually work in a hospital setting.

Combining the studies of biology and psychology allows Stephanie to explore the two sciences that interest her most. She describes her biology studies as a satisfying “hard facts” education whereas psychology challenges her intellectually. “Psychology is another world in itself. Especially the inner workings of the human mind and the vast differences in cognitive function and in conscience are incredibly fascinating to me,” explains Stephanie.

As Stephanie nears the end of her undergraduate studies, she is deciding which area of medicine she will focus on during her graduate and doctoral studies. Until recently, she was certain that she would specialize in pediatrics. Then she began an internship in the obstetrics and gynecological department of a children’s hospital in Germany. Stephanie says, “I am beginning to consider this to be another viable option. I think the birthing process is absolutely fascinating and I can definitely see myself working in this field.”

Stephanie’s academic record and personal empathy speak volumes about her commitment to helping others. While at New College of Florida, Stephanie volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and YREADS, a YMCA sponsored reading program for underprivileged children. Last summer, Stephanie traveled to Uganda for a Catholic mission to provide orphans with educational opportunities. While there, she worked directly with the residents and volunteered at the medical station. It is clear that no matter which specialty Stephanie chooses to pursue, she will surely make a wonderful physician.

It’s probably no surprise that much of Stephanie’s view of the world and desire to help others was instilled early on as an Army dependent. Stephanie explains, “Being a military brat, as we so fondly call ourselves, certainly has its ups and downs. As a military family, it is not uncommon to have to deal with everything from post-traumatic stress disorder in loved ones, to the loss of close family friends. But in my case, these challenges helped us grow closer as a family. If anything, living the life of a military brat has taught me adaptability and resiliency and has left me well prepared to face the world.”

ThanksUSA is proud to help Stephanie face her future. She reports that receiving the ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship was especially significant this year because of unexpected financial hardships. Her grandmother was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer and the Larumbe family committed much of their finances to her care and treatment. Although Stephanie is employed as both a Resident Advisor and lifeguard, her income fell short of tuition. “This scholarship really came at an opportune moment and helped me not only be able to fund my tuition for the semester, but also relieved me in a way that I could spend less time working and more time focusing on my studies,” Stephanie explains.

The ThanksUSA team wishes Stephanie continued academic success and we hope to follow up on her education in the future. A reminder to all college-bound military dependents that ThanksUSA scholarship applications will be available online between April 1 and May 15, 2012. All potential applicants are encouraged to register for a reminder email and as always, every donation helps…Make your tax-deducible donation today!

We close this week’s Scholarship News with a word of thanks from Stephanie:

“I feel honored to have received this scholarship and would like to thank the ESA Foundation and ThanksUSA with all my heart for the help and opportunity they have given me! I am truly grateful for all they have done!”

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In the spring of 2010, Amanda Blount was a young, expectant, Army wife. Her husband, Army Specialist William Anthony Blount, had secured mid-term R&R so he could witness the birth of his daughter. Tragically, on April 7, Specialist Blount was killed in Mosul, Iraq, when his vehicle was attacked with an IED. He died one month shy of Avery Elizabeth Blount’s birth.

Amanda & Avery Elizabeth Blount



With the loving support of her family, Amanda Blount is pressing forward. As an Army widow and single parent, she decided to pursue her education to ensure a better future for Avery Elizabeth. With the financial assistance of a $3000 Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Amanda is a freshman in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at Pearl River Community College.




Born and raised in Hattiesburg, MS, Amanda says that she has always wanted to give back to her supportive community. Her mother, a nurse, encouraged her to explore areas of study within the medical field and Amanda was soon drawn to the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

“I was captivated by the structures of the body and its ability to recover from disease and injury,” says Amanda. She also explained the mental aspect of physical therapy adding, “Not only does physical therapy help a patient return to previous activity levels, it provides reassurance and the motivation necessary for patients to reach their goals.”

Amanda has excelled academically and plans to continue her education and earn her undergraduate business degree. Describing herself as detail oriented and business-minded, Amanda’s end goal is to manage her own physical therapy office. But for right now, Amanda is focused on her studies and providing the best life possible for her daughter, Avery Elizabeth.

Education has become such a driving force in Amanda’s life that she helped establish the SPC William Anthony Blount Memorial Scholarship at his alma mater, Petal High School. Each year, teachers at Petal High School nominate a senior who demonstrates academic and civic excellence. Amanda explained that the scholarship recipient is always kind, shows eagerness to help others, and is never boastful…qualities that her own humble hero possessed.

In Memory of Specialist William Anthony Blount, United States Army

ThanksUSA is honored to be a part of Amanda’s academic journey and though she has been through much, Amanda says, “I am quite determined. Despite my hardships, I have to do what my husband would want me to do, ‘keep my chin up.’ It’s not easy most of the time, but I have our daughter to motivate me, to give me a reason to keep pushing and make me smile.”

Are you a military spouse considering pursuing your degree? We hope that Amanda’s story has inspired and motivated you! ThanksUSA Scholarship applications are accepted every year from April 1 through May 15 and we encourage you to register for a reminder. We close this week’s Scholarship News blog with a message for the Folds of Honor Foundation from Amanda:

“Thank you for choosing me as a recipient of the Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship. It makes a huge difference to me as I study to become a physical therapist assistant. Thank you for being mindful of those who have served their country. My husband and our family have made the ultimate sacrifice. Again, thank you!”

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Kyle Werstein wants to use his education to inspire others to take action. The recipient of a $3000 ESA foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Kyle is currently in his sophomore year of Graphic Design studies at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Kyle Werstein with his parents, Patricia and Timothy

Kyle describes graphic design as a means for “creating timeless communication that can be applied across a variety of mediums.”  He points out that as an increasingly paperless society, “It’s an exciting time to be a designer and a communicator. We have the unique opportunity to attempt to bring hundreds of years of tradition designing on paper into the digital age.”

Kyle has already demonstrated his talent and is beginning to gain recognition in his field. Below is a recent CD cover that he designed for Minneapolis jazz artist, Cory Wong.

design by Kyle Werstein

Like most artists, Kyle’s interests are not limited to his field of study. He enjoys exploring other graphic-related arts such as painting and screen printing, while expressing his interests in the performing arts through writing and performing with a Minneapolis rock band.

When Kyle completes his undergraduate studies, he plans to continue his education by earning his masters and doctorate degrees. “I hope to eventually work my way into the field of nonprofits and community involvement, using my skills to generate awareness and involvement in great issues affecting us today,” says Kyle.

He has already demonstrated his commitment to community outreach at the campus level. As part of an internship, Kyle created a social media campaign for a non-profit Equine Therapy center. He also co-founded MCAD’s bike club which subsidizes inexpensive bicycle helmets for students and he creates communications to raise scholarship funds through the alumni relations department.

Kyle clearly demonstrates the “pay it forward” concept that ThanksUSA supporters understand so well. He notes that his military upbringing shaped him into the respectful and civic-minded young man that he is today.

Kyle’s father, Sergeant First Class Timothy Werstein, U.S. Army (Ret), served our country for nearly 25 years. Kyle’s pride shines through as he reflects on his father’s career saying, “He’s served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Qatar and left the service with a number of commendations and accolades. If anything, my dad provided me with a strong role model and someone to look up to. His career compounded his own strong work ethic, which he in turn passed on to me. Being a military child has not been something I have ever taken for granted. It’s taught me respect for civics and my country, instilled in me a worldview that far surpasses most people my age and showed me the value of sacrifice. I’m grateful every day for the experience I have had.”

Now, as a young adult, Kyle is applying his strong work ethic to his collegiate pursuits. ThanksUSA is proud to be a part of Kyle’s educational journey and we thank him for sharing with us. We close this week’s feature with a message of gratitude from Kyle:

“Receiving the $3000 ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship has provided me with a great sense of financial security. Paying for college is an extremely stressful endeavor, and your generous sponsorship has awarded me with an indescribable peace of mind. Thank you for giving an opportunity to the children of military families, as well, and recognizing the unique sacrifices we, as “Brats,” make every day. From the bottom of mine and my family’s heart, thank you.”

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Cameron Mahone

Army dependent Cameron Mahone has always considered himself a team player. He loves to meet new people and makes others feel at ease. Over the years, Cameron realized that his purpose in life is, as he says, “is to uplift others around me.”

Now with the assistance of a $3000 Altria Group/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA, Cameron has begun his pre-professional biology stdueis (minor in chemistry) at Arkansas State University. Cameron’s ultimate goal is to become an orthodontist.

Cameron explains that he took an early interest in teeth and had been considering a career in the dental field. During his early teen years, Cameron had orthodontic treatment. Prior to beginning eighth grade, Cameron’s braces were removed. The beautiful smile that he faced in the mirror was enough to convince him to become an orthodontist. He notes, “People have always been important to me growing up. What is better than helping individuals out daily and putting smiles on their faces?”

Midway through his freshman year, Cameron is already immersing himself in ASU culture. He is actively involved with campus Bible studies and is a running back for ASU Red Wolves football. Cameron is looking forward to becoming more involved with campus activities, but for now he is making his studies a priority.

To maintain a great GPA while participating in university level sports, Cameron relies on the life lessons he learned growing up in a military family. He says that his father’s Army career taught him resilience, discipline, and how to be independent. Cameron reports that his father, Master Sergeant Terry Mahone, US Army (AGR), has honorably served our country for twenty-five years and is now looking forward to retirement.

We’re sure that MSG Mahone is very proud that Cameron is taking his lessons to heart. On behalf of the ThanksUSA team, I extend my thanks to MSG Mahone for his dedicated service and wish him peace and relaxation in his retirement.

Cameron certainly has a bright future ahead of him and we believe that his focus and dedication will lead him to a successful career as an orthodontist. We leave this week with a few words from Cameron to our sponsors:

“The Altria Group/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship is truly a blessing. It has relieved the burden of worrying about how I will pay for school and has provided me with endless opportunities to pursue my life-long dream of being an orthodontist.  I really appreciate you all selecting me. I will make you all proud one day!”

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Since childhood, Montana Rindahl dreamed of being a librarian. Now with the assistance of a $3000 Altria Group/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA, she is taking the first step to achieving her goal.

Montana has fond memories of weekly family library visits beginning when she was five years old. She loved the seemingly endless selection of stories and information and quickly developed a love for books. By the time she was seven, she knew that she wanted to be a librarian.


Though her interests have certainly grown since childhood, her love of books and the written word has never wavered. Montana is currently a freshman in the Honors Institute at Belmont Abbey College where she is studying English as a precursor to her future Library Science studies.

Upon earning her Masters in Library Science, Montana hopes to establish herself as a children’s librarian, preferably in a larger library. “I love the city and I love the military, so I know that I would be very comfortable working in either of these demographics. I would love to be a Children’s Librarian, planning activities and summer reading programs for kids of all ages,” says Montana.

Montana’s military experience is not that of the typical “brat” because her father, Reverend Captain Steven Rindahl, US Army Chaplain, did not serve in an active duty capacity until she was twelve. Being a bit older and more mature, Montana embraced the opportunities afforded by changing duty stations. She explains, “(moving) has helped me try new things and build relationships with people. Both of which have been necessary in college!”

Montana also credits her military upbringing with helping her set standards and goals for herself. She strives for excellence in all endeavors and adds, “I know that sometimes life is hard, but those times build me up and make me a better, stronger person. I learned from my dad that a job I love is the best job I could ever have. I learned through deployment that family is the most important. Because of this, I chose a college with high academic standards and students that excel in their studies.”

Certainly, Montana’s high standards have paid off. She was accepted into the prestigious  Honors Institute of Belmont Abbey College and is expected to maintain a 3.5 GPA or better…a challenge that Montana embraces with ease.

Though dedicated to her studies, Montana also has a love for sports. She plays soccer for the Belmont Abbey Crusaders and enjoys attending friends’ intramural volleyball games. Montana also enjoys the many campus activities offered to students like theater productions, movie nights, and Bible studies.

A well-rounded and enthusiastic student, Montana Rindahl is sure to inspire the next generation of young readers. ThanksUSA is honored to support Montana’s education and we wish her continued academic success!

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This week I am happy to introduce Beatriz Giraldo, a young Army spouse and mother of three who has received consecutive Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarships totaling $6000. Beatriz is currently in her sophomore year of military management and acquisition studies at American Military University and is looking forward to a career assisting the military community.



Beatriz is very familiar with the United States Army and her military pride is evident. Her father is a retired soldier and her husband, SGT Juan Giraldo, has served in the U.S. Army for almost ten years. She has first hand knowledge of the sacrifices military families make everyday to ensure that their soldier performs at his or her best.

“It is not the same to watch or hear about soldiers getting deployed as it to experience it in real life,” says Beatriz. “The emptiness a person feels the moment the plane takes off, taking with it the people who you love to a far and dangerous country can be devastating. On the bright side, as a result of deployments, strong bonds are built and people develop more resilience. My family and I have made numerous sacrifices because we are a military family. However, at the end of the day I am proud and thankful to be part of an organization that is dedicated to sacrificing so much to protect and create a better world for people worldwide.”

Though most of us, certainly ThanksUSA supporters, appreciate and understand the sacrifices of our military families, some employers are not so understanding. Like many military spouses, Beatriz has suffered the scorn of employers for taking too many personal days. These “personal days” were actually the result of being in at a new duty station with no extended family nearby, a deployed husband, and three sick children to tend to.

Because of experiences like this, Beatriz hopes that her degree will lead to a career with a military-friendly atmosphere. Ideally, she will secure a position with the Department of Defense or another military supportive organization. “My goal is to ensure that regulations, programs, and benefits are in place and implemented so that the company that I work for can be considered one of the top military-friendly companies to work for,” adds Beatriz.

Though the education of our ThanksUSA scholars is the focus of our blog, Beatriz also has some advice for those families who are supporting their injured service members. In 2009, SGT Giraldo sustained injuries during combat in Iraq. His courageous actions that day earned Sgt Giraldo a Purple Heart. “I can write a whole novel about how proud I am of my husband,” says Beatriz.

Beatriz has recently begun to accompany Juan as he seeks treatment for TBI and PTSD. She advises spouses to attend as many medical appointments and therapy sessions as possible.

“By attending these meetings, I have gotten a better understanding of what it is that my husband has gone through. Knowing such things has enabled me to be more understanding and also to know what I need to do or change to provide better support for my husband. Also, last week when one of the doctors was interviewing my husband, I would pitch in information that my husband was leaving out because of his lack of memory. At the end of the interview the doctor mentioned that he wished that wives accompanied their husbands more often because they were able to get a better understanding of everything that was going on, and in return could provide better help for the soldier.

Another piece of advice that I have is to remember that even though our spouses are injured, they are still the same people we fell in love with. With dedication, perseverance, and more than anything love, there is no reason why other spouses can’t grow old with their spouses, which is what I intend to do.”

Beatriz, the ThanksUSA team wishes you and Juan a very long, healthy, happy life together…may your Military Pride continue to shine through as you earn your degree and begin a career supporting our men and women in uniform! We leave you with a few words of thanks from Beatriz:

“I want to thank ThanksUSA and the Folds of Honor Foundation for awarding me two scholarships. In addition, I want to thank these organizations for having such programs available for military spouses. As many people know, the monthly income of a military family does not always go very far. However, thanks to organizations like ThanksUSA and the Folds of Honor Foundation, spouses like me nationwide are able to pursue their educational dreams. The sense of accomplishment and pride that I feel when my kids see me doing homework and realize the importance of college goes beyond anything words can describe.”

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As a child, Whitney Benevides had amazing teachers who offered both inspiration and direction. Now, in her senior year of Elementary Education studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate, Whitney is looking forward to being an amazing teacher herself. To complete her studies, Whitney was awarded a $3000 EMC Corp/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA.

Whitney, Joey, and Ava Benevides

Whitney has always had a desire to help children and a trip to Africa with the Youth With A Mission organization helped shape her educational goals. Whitney worked closely with children left orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Getting to know the children opened her heart and her mind. She realized that teaching young children was what she was meant to do. “It was heartbreaking to leave children who faced such loss. Photos just can’t convey what they live with,” reports Whitney.

Upon earning her BA, Whitney plans to work in the public school system. She has developed an understanding of the different learning styles of children and plans to use appropriate strategies to reach every child. Whitney explains, “What’s most important is the delivery of education. We need to move away from the lectures and make learning more interactive, more hands on, for students.”

Whitney believes that working within the public school system will allow her to help children who may need the most educational assistance. “My main goal is for each of my students to have the opportunity to live their dreams.  I have the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives and I will not take this privilege lightly,” says Whitney.

Although Whitney is a very outgoing and dedicated student, she is facing one of the most challenging times for a military spouse – the deployment of her husband, Airman First Class Joseph Benevides, United States Air Force.

Like most military spouses, Whitney is surviving deployment by keeping busy. She regularly volunteers with Vive Church and is mentoring a fellow education major. She has also put her studies to good use by working with struggling readers through Target Read and volunteering with Junior Achievement…all while maintaining a perfect GPA! She is also caregiver to Ava, the puppy that Joey gave her as a deployment companion.

The ThanksUSA team shares Whitney’s belief that every student deserves a great education and we are eager to see her impact the lives of students. In closing, Whitney shares her appreciation to our supporters:

“The EMC Corp/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA has lifted both a financial burden and my spirits. As a rising educator, having the support of my community is essential for my effectiveness in the classroom. I am eternally grateful for the generosity shown to me through this scholarship. Thanks to your support, in less than a year I will obtain my teaching degree and begin a new journey of transforming the lives of students.”

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For the third consecutive year, the Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation and NVCC’s Student Financial Office has joined ThanksUSA in awarding the $4000 Linda J. Romero/ThanksUSA Scholarship.

I’m very pleased to introduce the 2011/2012 Linda J. Romero/ThanksUSA Scholarship recipient, Susann Krawczak. With detail-oriented focus, Susann is pursuing her Associates of Applied Science in Engineering Technology with a Drafting Specialization.

Married to LTC Douglas Krawczak, U.S. Army, Susann has traveled the world in support of her husband’s career. After eighteen years as a stay-at-home mom to the couple’s three boys, Susann is very eager to reenter the workforce.

The Krawczak Family (Douglas, Susann, William, Martin, & Andreas)

Douglas and Susann’s sons, William (18), Martin (16), and Andreas (10), were quite surprised when Susann decided to return to school. Susann reports, “They only knew me as ‘mom’ and never imagined that I’d actually want to work outside of the home.”

Not only did Susann want to work outside the home, she was already planning for a high-demand, portable career that would give her job stability. Understanding that military equipment and technologies need to be updated constantly, Susann knew that engineering technology was the career for her.

Since beginning her studies at NVCC last summer, Susann has maintained a perfect GPA. She credits her success with a meticulous eye for detail and good communication skills. Susann explained that producing a finished product is very time-consuming and requires detailed back-and-forth discussion between the technologist and the engineer. The technologist must research materials, determine specifications, and refine ideas to accomplish a finished project. She is eager for the opportunity  to work closely with engineers to turn design concepts into real-world objects. Upon graduation, Susann hopes to use her strengths as a draftsman to work as a designer refining projects in support of the military.

The ThanksUSA team thanks NVCC for their continued support. Certainly, Susann is a deserving and dedicated student who serves as a great representation of ThanksUSA scholars. Susann, we wish you continued academic success and look forward to hearing about your subsequent career.

In closing, a few words from Susann:

“I was extremely pleased to hear that I received the ThanksUSA Scholarship. This scholarship has motivated me to continue my work towards a degree in Engineering Technology. After being out of the work force for some years and relocating to different locations in the U.S. and Europe every few years, it has been difficult to maintain my engineering technology skills.

Initially, I chose to concentrate on raising my three sons. Returning to school full-time has been a real adjustment and challenge. I plan to complete my degree in 2013 and this scholarship really helps. I am very thankful for being chosen as a recipient of this scholarship and look forward to joining the workforce once again.”

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As the first in her family to earn an undergraduate degree, Melissa Spear has set high academic standards for herself. She plans to earn her BS in Biology from the University of Texas El Paso and then continue her education with graduate and doctorate studies. Melissa received a $3000 EADS/Senator Ted Stevens Memorial Scholarship through ThanksUSA for the 2011/2012 academic year and is eager to share her experiences and academic goals with ThanksUSA supporters.

The daughter of SFC William Spear, US Army (RET), Melissa’s military childhood helped to shape her into the confident, diligent young woman that she is today.

“My father was in the Army for 20 years before he retired. Because of his career, I’ve had the chance to live in Germany, New York, Georgia, and Texas. I was able to see many different parts of the world. At the age of 20, I can definitely say that I’ve been to many more places than my peers have been to. Life as a military child has taught me to be fortunate of my experiences. I may not have been the child who was able to grow up in her hometown, but I can definitely say that I’ve been able to experience different cultures from all over. I may not have been the girl who’s had the same friends since kindergarten, but I have met people from all over. I’ve been able to see what this country offers and it motivates me to make a difference. I’m very proud of being a military child and being able to say that my father spent a part of his life serving this country,” says Melissa.

Since she is most interested in medical research, Melissa spent her summer working in the lab of Patrick Phillips at the University of Oregon. “My project is focused on understanding how organisms react to a stressful environment. We know that stress tends to have a negative impact, but we’re interested in finding how it affects lifespan and how it affects genetics. In the future, this research could possibly help in delaying the onset of age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. We’re not necessarily trying to find ways for people to live longer, but rather trying to find ways where they could live a much healthier life. Why live to be 90 years old when the last 15 years of life is spent having to fight Alzheimer’s? This project is important, because we’re hoping that we’ll be able to find that genes that control stress resistance and lifespan. I’ve been working with worms that have been living in a standard lab environment but are then selected for acute stress. I’ve been extracting RNA from these worms and having them sent off to be sequenced so we can look at their genetic lines.”

This invaluable experience has bolstered Melissa’s own research goals. She explains, “I’m most interested in understanding how cancer runs through continuous generations in a certain family. Why is one family always more at risk for a specific type of cancer? If your mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, why does that make her daughter more at risk for contracting it too? My ultimate goal is to be able to teach at a university and run my own lab.”

Though academic success is a priority for Melissa, she is also dedicated to the UTEP University Honors Council. Made up of UTEP honor students, the University Honors Council devotes many hours to the Reynolds House, a shelter for women and children. “We try to provide as much as we can for the kids by hosting fun events for them as well as providing many goods for their needs.” When she’s not studying or volunteering with the University Honors Council, the well-rounded Melissa enjoys baking and dancing.

The ThanksUSA team wishes everyone a very safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. While you’re relaxing with friends and family, take a moment to reflect on the thousands of military families who have loved ones serving here at home and abroad. We leave this week’s feature with a special message from Melissa about receiving the EADS/Senator Ted Stevens/ThanksUSA Scholarship:

“Receiving the ThanksUSA Scholarship has motivated me to work harder for my goals. I’m striving to graduate from school debt free and every little bit of money helps. I want to become a scientific researcher, but that path comes with a price. I’ve seen people give up their dreams, because of the time and money it takes and I do not want to be one of them. I’m very grateful for every bit of help I get because it brings me one step closer to my goal.”

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This week we continue our interview with Eastern Washington University senior and ThanksUSA Scholarship recipient, Ashley Podplesky. (Week 1 available here) Ashley has some sincere advice to pass along to students considering social work or international affairs:

“For those interested in Social Work, I would say volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! I think the most basic need for a student interested in being a social worker is the desire to help people, which is something that can be expanded on while volunteering. Volunteering is also a great way to work with members of different populations, allowing us to learn more about people in different circumstances and those from cultures different than ours, which does nothing but help us prepare for working with our future clients.

As for students interested in studying International Affairs, I would say absorb everything you can about what is going on in the world at the moment. Read the newspaper or watch the news (multiple sources!), pay attention to laws that are being passed and changes that are occurring at the international level, and be sure to always seek support/criticism for your argument from more than one source. This will help expose biases (which we all have), and will give you a better foundation of knowledge to use when analyzing different events. More importantly, get out there and explore the world! You can read every book ever written about Australia or India or South Africa, but you can never truly know what it is like until you actually travel to Australia or India or South Africa and experience that culture firsthand. With this said I know money doesn’t grow on trees and that most people aren’t able to hop from one country to another without going into debt, but there are still plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in a culture different from your own. Stateside, most semi-large cities have sections of the city that are primarily one culture (i.e. Little Italy, Chinatown, etc), which is about as authentic as your exploration can get without leaving the country. Anything you can do to expand your knowledge of different cultures and the inner workings of foreign countries/their governments will always be beneficial in my opinion.”

Ashley’s advice comes from her personal experience. Currently, Ashley and her sister, Azaria (also a ThanksUSA scholar!) are spending time in Kisumu, Kenya, as part of Circle K International’s 2011 Global Service Trip. Ashley has been blogging about her trip and you can read it here.

Ashley is realistic and understands that “service” fields aren’t for everyone. Regardless, she does have great advice for students in any field:

“When it comes to choosing a major, just follow your heart! I know from personal experience that people will try to talk you out of choosing a major, just because they don’t see it as being a very good choice. Whether or not their points are valid, you are the one who will ultimately live the life you choose; therefore, your opinion should be the only one that matters. It may be hard to go against what others want from you but you will be much happier if you do, as you are living the life you want for yourself.”

ThanksUSA and our supporters are proud of Ashley and all of our ThanksUSA Scholarship recipients! As I write this, hundreds of ThanksUSA applications are in review for the 2011/2012 academic year. The need is great and there are many ways you can help. Click here to make your tax-deductible donation today. Make a $10 donation that will appear on your next cell-phone bill by texting THANKSUSA to 85944. Coffee lovers should look for specially marked cans of Hills Bros. Coffee and enter codes for the Hills Bros. Homefront Heroes campaign. Before you leave, please read as Ashley explains just how much the John (NMN) Coffey/ThanksUSA Scholarship has meant to her education.

“Having two majors means I am currently enrolled in two full-time programs, meaning I almost always take more than the full credit load of 18 credits. Whenever a student takes more than 18 credits there is a separate fee per credit for the student to pay, meaning more money is due. The John (NMN) Coffey/ ThanksUSA Scholarship essentially made it possible for me to continue with my education, especially allowing me to continue pursuing my two degrees of study. If I had not received this scholarship I really think I would have had to drop one of my majors, forcing me to choose between the two fields that I love. Receiving this scholarship made furthering my education possible, for which I will always be eternally grateful.”

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Charles Bryant


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Jessica Raye Doak





Army dependent Jessica Doak received a $3000 Folds of Honor/ThanksUSA Scholarship to begin her studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage. where she majors in Elementary Education. This week, Jessica discusses her plans to combine her love of the outdoors with a rewarding career as an elementary school teacher.






Jessica’s father, MSG John H Doak, U.S. Army (Ret), served as a Chaplain Assistant for 23 years. Upon his retirement, the family settled in Alaska and Jessica soon began exploring. “I have hiked Hatcher’s Pass on back packing trips, been on float trips, climbed Matanuska Peak, Pioneer Peak, ice climbed in the Thunderbird Falls area, and enjoyed biking and kayaking in the Valley.  I believe Alaska has many things to offer and I hope to be able to share that love for the outdoors as part of my teaching and working with children,” says Jessica.

She also believes that her experiences growing up as a military child helps her relate to children who come from a variety of backgrounds, families, and locations. Throughout her father’s career, Jessica traveled extensively and witnessed the poverty that exists around the world. She explains, “I was also exposed to the poverty in other countries and was able to be part of projects that reached out to the needy.  This experience caused me to have a great appreciation for our countries’ standard of living and has given me a desire to help those who are less fortunate than us.  I believe God has blessed me significantly and I wish to share that blessing and His love with others.”

Jessica looks forward to earning her degree and teaching, but she is already involved with many children’s activities. Whether she is serving as a camp counselor, nanny, or a group youth leader at Lazy Mountain Bible Church, Jessica finds great enjoyment in working with children. “My love for children and a desire to see them learn inspired me to pursue a degree in elementary education. I believe I can have a positive impact on the lives of children.”

Jessica, the ThanksUSA team also believes that you will have a positive impact and we look forward to seeing you achieve your academic goals. ThanksUSA will be accepting scholarship applications for the 2011/2012 academic year from April 1 until May 15, 2011. Visit our website for eligibility requirements and to sign up for a reminder email. We close this week with a message from Jessica to Folds of Honor:

“Growing up as a military child taught me to honor and respect our freedom and how much our soldiers play a part in keeping it. Receiving the Folds of Honor/ ThanksUSA Scholarships has been a huge blessing and I am so very thankful that I was chosen to receive it.  This has allowed me to focus on my education.  Although I still work part time, the scholarship has helped me keep that in balance and has freed me to continue my volunteer work with children.”

You can support students like Jessica by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation.

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Alexander Styer

This week’s featured scholar is $3000 ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship recipient, Alexander Styer.  Alex developed a love for biology during his high school years and is now a Biology major at Georgetown University.  As the son of an Army aviator, Alex relocated often.  “If you count this relocation to Georgetown University, I have moved 15 times. Moving can be a challenge, but it also has it’s advantages. I’ve learned a lot from living in so many different places and have gained experiences that have shaped me into the individual I am today,” says Alex.

Today, Alex is embracing college life in the nation’s capitol.  Still committed to studying biology, he is torn between the environmental and pre-medical disciplines.  Alex explains, “I had always planned on becoming some kind of researcher for environmental science, but now my interests are starting to shift towards the medical sciences.”

Alex’s education is certainly important to him, but so is the education of others. During his first semester at Georgetown, Alex volunteered for the DC Schools Project which offers tutoring to local youths. His role in the program was quite an experience…Alex was responsible for driving tutors to and from students homes in a large nine passenger van. Although this may sound like a simple task, keep in mind that Georgetown is in the heart of DC. If you are not familiar with driving in the District, let me assure you that it can quite an (ahem) adventure!

Alex understands that maintaining a strong academic record now will help him achieve his future academic and career goals. He is appreciative of the financial aid he received from the ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA noting, “I can worry a little less about being able to afford a college experience. It means less headache and fewer loans which enable me to pursue my education with a clear, focused mind. I would like to thank the ESA Foundation and ThanksUSA for awarding me this scholarship.

ThanksUSA is proud to support Alex’s education and we hope he continues to excel at Georgetown. ThanksUSA scholarship applications for the 2011/2012 academic year will open April 1, 2011. Keep in mind that a new application is required every year regardless of receipt of past or present ThanksUSA Scholarships. Although you can only receive one ThanksUSA Scholarship per academic year, you can receive ThanksUSA scholarships for multiple years of undergraduate studies. You can sign up for an email reminder about the 2011 application period here.

You can support students like Alexander by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation.

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Last week I introduced Army dependent Ashley O’Neil who has embraced her studies at Kansas State University. Ashley is excelling academically and has already become very active with the campus community. She is a member of the Hall Governing Board and the Vice President of her residence hall’s first floor. She remains physically active by playing her favorite sport as a member of the Kansas State Women’s Soccer team. Relating to her major, Ashley meets weekly with fellow members of the Bakery Science Club to bake in the KSU pilot commercial bakery. The club is raising funds to attend the National Baking Convention in Chicago. With the goal of becoming an Ambassador for the College of Agriculture, Ashley recently completed the College of Agriculture Training Program.

Clearly, Ashley has embraced campus life and is enjoying every opportunity that KSU has to offer. When I asked her how she remains focused and disciplined, Ashley immediately credited the support of her family. “I grew up as a child in a military family which taught me to be prepared for any situation that could come my way and to always face new challenges head on and with tenacity. As a military child, I am used to many different environments and have encountered a variety of situations which have made me wiser and assisted me in developing smarter decision-making skills. With my dad in the military, we had to undergo frequent moves from state to state, and even internationally. This taught me to treasure the people I have around me and helped me to better appreciate the skills and talents of others. The multiple moves taught me to be versatile and flexible, as well as showing me that certain traits and values should not be compromised. Through the military, I met new people on a near daily basis which developed my communication skills and made me more outgoing.”

The O'Neil Family

Exposure to different cultures and an appreciation for diversity have influenced Ashley to seek a career that will have a global impact. Currently, Ashley is considering either Product Development or Research & Development. If she were to work with product development, Ashley would love to develop a healthier food products that could be sold both nationally and internationally. A career in R&D would allow her to focus on making simple grains more efficient and cost-effective to meet the dietary needs of people in underprivileged areas. Ashley says that proper agriculture R&D could also lead to improved crop yields for farmers. Regardless of which career path Ashley chooses, she is sure to succeed. She attributes her academic success to her teachers, friends, and family who have always encouraged and supported her. She also has a special message of thanks for ThanksUSA and the Blavatnik Family Foundation:

“Receiving the$3000  Blavatnik Family Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship affected my education greatly in that it made it possible. Thanks to the combined efforts of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and ThanksUSA, I was relieved of some of the financial strain and burden of college tuition. The scholarship that I received paid for tuition for almost a full semester! The scholarship that I received assisted and enabled me to pay for my entire freshman year of college without having to take out a loan! I cannot thank them enough, because they have made a huge difference in both my education and my future.”

Ashley, thank you so much for sharing. ThanksUSA looks forward to following your academics at Kansas State University and we hope to hear an update after you visit this year’s National Baking Convention!

You can support students like Ashley by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to85944 to make your $10 donation.

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Food is popular. Dishes that were once considered a delicacy can now be microwaved in the comfort of our own homes. Advancements in distribution have allowed us to taste exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world any time of year. We have access to thousands of recipes via the internet and we even have an entire television network dedicated to food. Even with countless information and resources at our fingertips, the proper (and most satisfying) preparation of food still requires skill and talent – a certain knack for the trade.

Army dependent Ashley O’Neil has that knack. Ashley received a $3000 Blavatnik Family Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship to begin her studies at Kansas State University. She is majoring in both Bakery Science & Management and German Language. She plans to pursue a career with the agriculture industry and hopes that her German language skills will bridge language barriers.

Ashley O'Neil





Ashley fondly recalls the inspiration for her studies saying, “Ever since I was old enough to help out in the kitchen, I was there with my Dad (Maj Joseph O’Neil, U.S. Army), baking and cooking up an endless variety of delicious dishes. While working in the kitchen was always enjoyable, making cakes, cookies, pies, and other tasty treats was always my strong suit and something that I enjoyed immensely. This was where I first discovered my love for baking.”




Ashley is now taking her passion to the next level by honing her baking technique and learning every aspect of her chosen trade. From the planting of the grains that will become raw ingredients to the finished products found on store shelves, KSU’s Bakery Science and Management curriculum is sure to prepare Ashley for her dream career. Ashley’s studies are quite unique and she offers a more detailed explanation of KSU’s Agriculture program:

Kansas State University has one of the strongest Agriculture programs in the nation. Kansas State University was originally named the Kansas State Agricultural College when it opened in 1863. Because of this, the College of Agriculture is one of many strongly rooted colleges within Kansas State University, with a history as unique as the students and professors that are a part of it.

In the programs within the College of Agriculture, students are encouraged not only to know everything concerning their specific field of study to the maximum capacity, but also to be knowledgeable of all the factors that are encompassed within agriculture. The studies within the College of Ag involve the learning about the entire agricultural process, from the planting of grains, all the way to the final product. With high standards and a wide variety of curriculum and classes available to the students, the College of Ag ensures that their students graduate with all the tools and knowledge necessary to be successful. In doing so, the College of Ag also provides their students with the competence and capacity to work on new and progressive research projects, and to be on the cutting edge of agricultural knowledge and development.

One example of the unique opportunities and programs that the Kansas State College of Ag provides is the Bakery Science and Management program, which is the only one of its kind in the entire nation! With a fully functioning flour mill, feed mill, dairy, research labs, and a pilot bakery, the Kansas State University College of Agriculture has provided all of the facilities essential to provide hands-on experience and valuable training, therefore better preparing students for future success.

With a curriculum that seems tailor made for her, Ashley will no doubt continue to excel at her studies with enthusiasm. Next week we’ll continue our discussion with Ashley and learn how her experiences as a military child helped her become the confident and determined young woman that we have met today.

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Since most of the nation is being held in the icy grips of old man winter, I think it’s quite refreshing to meet someone who is earning her degree in a place that most consider paradise…Honolulu, Hawaii! As I write this, it is currently 28° F here in Hampton Roads, VA. The weather in Honolulu? A beautiful 77° F. Yes, there is a chance for rain in Honolulu, but at least it’s warm!

Weather aside, I’m pleased to introduce Tia Alove Hicks who is earning her degree on the beautiful campus of Chaminade University of Honolulu.  With the assistance of a $3000 Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Tia will graduate with her BS in Elementary Education by the end of this year. Tia expresses her gratitude for her scholarship saying, “Receiving the Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship has made it possible for me to arrive closer to my goal of completing my degree. The financial burden of college especially as an adult providing for a family can often times be overwhelming and can make your goal seem out of reach. Receiving the Goldman Sachs Gives/ThanksUSA Scholarship has freed my mind from worry over finances so I can focus on my studies.”

Tia Alove Hicks

Tia is a proud Army spouse and mother of three school aged children.  Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Jason A Hicks, US Army, has recently returned from his third combat tour and is currently Food Advisor for all Hawaii based Army Units. How does Tia manage school, raise her children and support her husband’s military career? She relies on a cooperative support system of family, friends, and neighbors.  She adds, “whoever you find around you that you can trust – utilize them and be sure to return the favors! Oh and don’t forget; time management and casseroles!”  Sound advice for any student or military spouse.

Asked about her academic inspiration, Tia enthusiastically responded, “My children have been my biggest inspiration to study Elementary Education. I have always been an active parent and a big part of that has been volunteering in their classrooms. Being in the classroom and seeing first hand the many light bulb moments in the students has been a very rewarding experience. It’s like seeing your child take his/her first steps! Exciting.”

Even more exciting is Tia’s approach to teaching: My goal as a teacher is to make certain that all of my students are engaged in their personal learning experience.  If students are not engaged then they are most likely not learning. I don’t want to be the type of teacher that force-feeds information into the students and expect them to regurgitate that information on a pen and paper test. This to me is not teaching or learning.  I plan to first create a safe environment for my students, not just the physical environment but the mental environment as well. If students feel as if they will be ridiculed or laughed at for wrong answers they will not want to participate. My job is to encourage participation. I also plan to incorporate project based learning, this hands on type of learning is not just beneficial to students but fun as well. I want my students to enjoy learning. If I can instill in them a love of learning then I will have accomplished something.

Any student would benefit from the learning environment that Tia plans to teach in. ThanksUSA wishes Tia continued academic excellence and we look forward to an update from her first classroom. Keep up the good work Tia and send warm thoughts to all of our readers!

You can support students like Tia by making a $10 donation today…simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation.

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We’re getting so close to the final Phase I deadline. In less than two weeks, 3 more winners will be named and your school/youth group could be one of them! One winning group will be selected for each of the final three chapters: New Jersey, New Hampshire, and U.S. Army. Each winning group will win a $1000 gift certificate to use towards schools supplies.

Let’s solve a clue from one of these last three chapters. I’ve had helicopters on my mind this week (I’ll explain later), so let’s look at a question from chapter 7, United States Army:

17. What Army helicopter has two engines, a crew of two, and was first used in Panama in 1989?

The clue gives great detail about the configuration of the helicopter, but we need to look for some easier keywords. I love when dates are included in treasure hunt clues because they really help to narrow your search. Since we’re looking for an Army helicopter that was used during a specific invasion, let’s try adding the location and date:

Army helicopter + Panama + 1989

If this search seems too broad, you can also research the aviation history of the invasion of Panama. Also, if you find yourself reading through too much information on a specific website, you can always search within the page by using “Control F” to bring up a “find” box. This allows you to search for keywords, such as helicopter, within the page that you are viewing.

So why did I have helicopters on my mind this week? I recently learned that ThanksUSA friend and former scholarship recipient, 2nd Lt Robert Johnston, US Air Force, has recently begun his helicopter training at Fort Rucker and enjoyed his first UH-1H Huey flight earlier this week. The entire ThanksUSA team wishes 2nd Lt Johnston continued success and advancement in his Air Force career!

Keep unlocking those TH5 treasures.  Even if you’ve completed the entire Treasure Hunt, make sure you visit the website and blog often…we have some added fun planned for this summer!

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Welcome back Treasure Hunters! We only have a few weeks left until the final Phase I deadline (May 20). Correctly unlocking the treasure of chapter 5, 6, or 7, will qualify your classroom or youth group for a $1000 gift certificate. This week, I’m happy to introduce one of our earlier Phase I winners, Joy’s Kids. Like many of you, Joy’s Kids has been participating in the ThanksUSA Treasure Hunt for years. In fact, this is the third year in a row that the youth group has won a prize! The majority of Joy’s Kids youth participants have physical limitations.  With their $1000 gift certificate, they were able to purchase adaptive electronics:

Arlene Feix & Melissa Johnson, Joy's Kids representatives

Wow!!! We are so excited and in total disbelief that we won again! This is our third win and our kids have absolutely loved playing in the hunt. We have also enjoyed being able to support and honor our troops and they deserve so much more than we can give. Well I’m sure you are curious as to how the kids decided to spend their money. Well first thing they were all happy to buy was an iPad. Thank goodness a friend held one for me because by the time I got there they were sold out! So we got some accessories for the iPad as well as some new keyboards with support and more ergonomic mice so they can use the computers with more ease. I can’t thank you enough. This has been such a blessing and I don’t think I can express what a difference this has made in their lives. Thanks again and we will continue to hunt.  Sincerely, Arlene  @  Joy’s Kids

Arlene, thank you for your continued support!  The ThanksUSA team is so happy that Joy’s Kids is able to use their prize to facilitate learning and communication.  Now, let’s see if we can help another school/youth group become a winner.  Let’s solve a clue from chapter  7, Army:

19.  Legend has it that General Abner Doubleday, Civil War commander and West Point graduate, invented this American pastime.

I love this clue!  I first saw this clue when TH5 was being developed…since I had never heard of this legend, I was quite intrigued.  Our key words are the General’s name, Abner Doubleday, and invention.  I’m sure that many sports fans have actually heard this legend, but for those who haven’t, let’s search:

Gen Abner Doubleday + invention

That should lead you to the surprising (at least to me) answer.  Check back next week to hear from another TH5 winning group, The Young Homeschool.  Until then, take Arlene’s advice and continue to hunt!

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Welcome back to the Treasure Hunt Five blog! This week, many school-aged children will be enjoying spring break travel. Are you tired of your children zoning out with electronics on long road trips? Print out a copy of Treasure Hunt Five and take it with you! Have you already solved TH5? You can print Treasure Hunts from previous years. When you login to the hunt, select a chapter and then click Clue Book Printable Version. To access previous hunts, use the Access Previous Treasure Hunts drop down menu.

For those of you who haven’t completed TH5, let’s take a closer look at a question from Chapter 7, The United States Army:

20. Army enlisted-rank insignia feature two components: one sounds like an oil company and the other a musical performer. What are they?


.Just to be a little clearer, here is a picture of the insignia in question. We need to identify the top pointed symbol and the bottom curved symbol. Let’s start with a very simple search:


U.S. Army enlisted insignia

The first site recommended by your search engine will probably be www.Army.mil. By exploring this website, you may come across many answers to Chapter 7! The answer is not easy to find…you’ll have to read some historical facts. If you still can’t find the names of the symbols, try one of these more specific searches:

Symbolism of U.S. Army enlisted insignia

History of U.S. Army enlisted insignia

Many Treasure Hunt players have easily found the name of the upper symbol, but still struggled with the lower portion of the insignia. Remember, the clue says the other a musical performer. Here’s an additional clue: the other could also be compared to a chair. If you’re still stumped, check out this website: www.armygeeks.org

Our final Phase I deadline is May 20, 2010. All school/youth groups who successfully unlock the treasure for chapters 5, 6, or 7, will be entered for a chance to win a $1000 gift card to use for school supplies. Please remind your students or youth group participants that they can also register as individuals and play at home. Our Phase II deadline for individual players is September 30, 2010. Good Hunting!

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