It was not what one expects at a typical gathering of “scholars,” but these were Pat Tillman Military Scholars chosen for their military service, academic excellence and community involvement.
Music blared from the covered porch at Haley’s Cove Community Living Center – a long-term care facility for veterans at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Medical Center.
Looking out beyond the patio to the enclosed garden – your eye is drawn past the raised planting boxes and barbecue grill to the gazebos – a hub of activity. The Tillman Scholars and friends were giving the weather-worn gazebos a fresh coat of white and green paint.
“The point is to not only raise awareness for veterans education, but also to promote service within the community. Which is why we’re here at the VA hospital right now,” said Josiah Hill, a Coast Guard veteran and one of four USF Tillman Scholars.
There are 171 Tillman Scholars nationally. Those living in the Southeast Region are gathered this weekend at the University of South Florida for leadership training as well as the community service project.
Hunter Riley is director of programs for the Pat Tillman Foundation based in Tempe, Arizona. He also helps select which applicants receive the scholarships worth up to $8,000. He said they look beyond someone who has excelled academically or excelled in their military career.
“We’re looking for someone who has a transformational story, someone like Dave (Warden) who has had something really change his life at a young age and how he’ll be able to move on,” said Riley.
“That transformational story and what someone has done with that,” Riley said. “The story of grief or joy whatever it is, whatever experience you’ve had and are doing something now with it.”
In addition to helping active-duty and veterans with their education, the Pat Tillman Foundation works to bridge the gap between the civilian and military worlds.
Riley was pleased that civilians made up about 25 percent of the audience who came out to hear Pat Tillman’s widow, Marie Tillman, Friday night at USF.
Filed under: Coast Guard, Education, Non-Profit Organizations, Veterans, Veterans Administration Tagged: | Haley's Cove Community Living Center, Hunter Riley, James A. Haley, Josiah Hill, Pat Tillman Foundation, postaday2011, Tillman Military Scholarships, University of South Florida