Veterans' Friendly Gathering

USF, ranked 5th in nation as a “Best for Vets” college, recently hosted a group of Tillman Military Scholars, a USF’s Veterans’ Services event.

 

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2011) – The road from military service to college student is made smoother with the help of the University of South Florida’s Office of Veterans’ Services.  In fact, USF was ranked fifth in the nation recently by Military Times Edge, a military and veteran career and education resource publication, in its “Best for Vets: Colleges 2011,” up from number eight last year.

 

The Tillman Military Scholarship Program – a shining example of the how to serve those who served their country – provides further help. The program benefits service members and their family members who demonstrate an exceptional ability and desire to serve others. USF’s cohort of Tillman Military Scholars had the opportunity to meet with many of their counterparts last month for a southeast regional gathering.

 

Approximately 130 participants including Pat Tillman Foundation staff and board members were on hand to take part in a variety of activities which included workshops on “How to Work a Room” and “Motivating a Team in a Non-military Setting,” conducted by Dan Jenkins, a College of Education instructor who specializes in leadership.

 

Hosted by USF’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, “The Marie Tillman Story: Finding Purpose in the Face of Adversity” – a talk and panel presentation – was a highlight of the three-day conference.

 

“We received fantastic feedback for the reception and the panel discussion,” said Director of Veterans Services Lawrence Braue. “Many were amazed by Marie Tillman’s grace, humility and commitment to veterans and their families. And we talked about the difficulty of transitioning from a military environment to a campus environment.  Each one found it difficult to find meaning and purpose on campus after serving in a combat zone.  People on the campus (faculty, staff, and non-veteran students) didn’t understand them.  They often felt out of place.” 

 

A service project provided another team-building and community service activity.  They painted and refinished a gazebo at the Haley’s Cove Veterans Administration Community Living Center.

 

“Inadequate funding and resources presented us with an opportunity to help,” said Braue.  “The nursing home’s courtyard area had been neglected and was in need of various repairs. So the Tillman Scholars pitched in to give back to our veterans from a couple of generations back.  They had a great time and the place looks so much better. Our veterans deserve to have a nice place to relax.”

 

The group of Tillman Military Scholars also took part in team building activities around tackling USF’s high and low ropes courses.  And they enjoyed some of Tampa’s favorite tourist activities. They had dinner at Channelside and saw the Bucs vs. Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

 

The Pat Tillman Foundation was created to memorialize the late football player who died after leaving his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to fight in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment. His wife has honored her late husband’s legacy with scholarships for veterans to pay tribute to his commitment to leadership and service.  

 

USF became a partner in January of this year and there are now four Tillman Military Scholars: Josiah Hill, Grey Leonard, Quincy Lopez and Robert Warden. They are among a total of 171 Tillman Military Scholars representing 32 states and attending 59 academic institutions nationwide.  So far over $2.2 million in scholarship support has been distributed among them. The program provides educational scholarships for veteran and active service members and their dependents.

 

Grey Leonard, a former second lieutenant in the Air Force, is studying medicine at the College of Medicine. He welcomes relief from the financial strength the scholarship offers.  But his feelings go deeper.

 

“The program allows me to network with other scholars across the nation,” Leonard said. “Being a Tillman scholar also instills in me a continued duty to serve. Particularly, I am motivated to study harder and serve more because I represent the Tillman Foundation on the medical campus and in my local community.”

 

Originally from Winter Park, he and his wife, also a USF student, now live in Tampa.

 

He describes the USF veteran's office as “excellent. They have worked with me directly with sorting out the GI-Bill and Tillman scholarship. They helped to set up a work-study program at the local VA hospital for me so I could get some clinical experience.  The office is friendly, efficient and helpful.”  

 

USF’s Office of Veterans’ Services works in close cooperation with the Veterans Administration to assist veterans, active duty servicepersons and members of the Selected Reserve, as well as dependents of benefits eligible veterans, enrolled at USF, with their financial and academic needs.  It can be can be accessed by visiting http://www.veterans.usf.edu/. 

 

To learn more about Tillman Scholarship eligibility and criteria, visit www.pattillmanfoundation.org/tillman-military-scholars.php.

 

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.