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This week’s featured scholar, Eric Witt, has persevered despite the loss of his father. With the assistance of a $3,000 Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Eric has completed his freshman year of studies at Otterbein College and has set his sights on becoming a Marine Biologist.

Eric’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel J. Witt, U.S. Air Force, honorably served his country as a pilot for twenty years. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he received numerous awards and though his service record is extensive, his children remember him as a loving father, and an avid distance runner and fisherman who enjoyed grilling and cooking.

One trait that Eric inherited from his father is athleticism. Although he has just begun his college journey, Eric is playing for the Otterbein Tennis Team. Eric loves the sport, but is quick to point out, “I’m a student-athlete; student first and athlete second.” Eric says that his coach is a great mentor and emphasizes the importance of academics by encouraging his team to keep up their grades in order to be eligible to play. Eric adds, “Balancing schoolwork with teamwork is what being a student-athlete is about. Being able to be involved in a few things on campus is rewarding, and it is a good way to make friends.”

As he prepares for his sophomore year, Eric is more committed to his major field of study, biology. He plans to first earn his B.S. Biology and then pursue graduate studies with a concentration in Marine Biology. Eric says that a fascination with marine life, a desire to explore the unknown, and endless curiosity are driving his academic ambitions. He adds that he feels a need, “to contribute something useful to society in the way of science or medicine in my discoveries.”

Although Eric has been busy wrapping up his freshman year of studies and prepping for the Fall semester, he has taken the time to apply for the 2012-2013 ThanksUSA Scholarship. We remind all college-bound military dependent children and spouses to apply before the May 15th deadline. Complete details can be found on the 2012 ThanksUSA Scholarship Program page of our website.

The Witt Family (L to R) Eva, Eric, Lisa, Peter

The ThanksUSA team is confident that Eric’s determination, combined with the loving support of his family, will lead to his academic success. We look forward to following up with him throughout his undergraduate studies and leave you with a message from Eric:

“I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for my selection as a recipient of the Folds of Honor Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship. I am truly honored by your efforts to support families of military members by enabling dependents to pursue higher education.” – Eric Witt

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Air Force dependent Brittany Butler has always been drawn to the sciences. During high school, she was inspired to pursue a biology major by her AP Biology teacher. Now in her junior year of studies at Valdosta State University, Brittany is busy conducting research,  volunteering, and planning a trip abroad.

Brittany was the recipient of a $3000 Blavatnik Family Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship during the 2010/2011 academic year. I asked Brittany to share her enthusiasm for biology with ThanksUSA supporters and potential science students:

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“This past year, I did research with a wonderful professor and other students on metal accumulation through the diet in the sea urchin species Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. This research is a way for me to get my foot in the door and a way for me to get an idea of what kinds of research I could possibly take part in. As far as my research interests, I am intrigued by anything that involves marine science which is why I am planning on working with another professor in the fall studying inland waters. My core reason for wanting to study in Fiji for the fall of 2012 is so that I can take more courses geared toward Marine Biology and hopefully even take part in some research while I am a student over there!

This field will never let you down; there is always excitement and intrigue around every corner no matter what you decide to do in this field. Of course there will be plenty of long nights at the library studying, but it will all be worth it. In order to get more hands on experience and knowledge, I encourage students to join a science club or take part in research with their professors because these will definitely pay off. One last bit of advice I have is just do what you love; don’t settle on something based off of its pay or the way the economy is because if you love what you do then you never have to work a day in your life.”

Even though Brittany maintains a perfect GPA, she still finds time to participate in extra-curricular activities. In the past year, she was inducted into the Golden Key International Honor Society and named secretary for VSU’s Table Tennis Club. She regularly volunteers at the local humane society and at the Moody AFB Thrift Shop.

Brittany’s father, MSGT Kevin Butler, USAF RET, served as a forward air controller for twenty-one years. Brittany’s military upbringing taught her to embrace change, an important trait for an inquisitive, globe-trotting marine biologist. She explains, “Being a military brat has taught me quite a lot, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t be afraid of change.  When you are a part of a military family you are separated from loved ones constantly and at other times you are moving from state to state every couple of years, so change happens often.  It is because of this lesson I am so eager to travel across the globe in order to study more about my major; I have learned that even though change can seem scary taking that risk will pay off in the end.”

“Receiving the ThanksUSA Scholarship made it a whole lot easier to focus on my education rather than worry about having to find the funds necessary to continue studying at VSU. Think about it, without this scholarship I may not have been able to take part in the research that will land me in a science journal or discover my interest in studying abroad for a semester. Thanks to this scholarship my interests and curiosities about research and Marine Biology have been able to blossom so that I now have a better idea of what I want to do in the future.”

By joining our texting campaign, you can help a student like Brittany with as little as $10. Simply text THANKSUSA to 85944 to make your $10 donation today. Then, spread the word through Twitter and Facebook. Our goal is to raise $250,000 by June 30th.  If texting just isn’t for you, click this link for additional methods of making your tax-deductible donation today.  THANK YOU!

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