Delivering on its commitment to help military veterans take a significant academic step forward, the national nonprofit SoldierStrong today announced the 2021 recipients of its annual scholarship initiative, SoldierScholar.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill has helped thousands and thousands of veterans with their post-secondary education, but there are still funding gaps that can become insurmountable obstacles toward the completion of a degree,” said SoldierStrong co-founder and chairman Chris Meek. “We’re committed to helping to fill those gaps because higher education is one of the most powerful tools to help veterans have a smooth transition to civilian life and ensure that veterans can continue to provide for themselves and their families.”
Meek continued, “Veterans also serve as major assets to the schools they attend by bringing with them unparalleled experiences, leadership characteristics, and integrity cultivated during their time in service. When Americans ask themselves who they want to be the leaders of tomorrow, they will surely think of individuals like our SoldierScholar recipients – whose contributions to our society within the civilian sector will no doubt parallel their contributions to our nation during their service.”
The GI Bill has not historically relieved all costs, such as textbooks, classroom fees, transportation, technology, tutoring and a number of other expenses, associated with higher education. SoldierScholar was created to alleviate those additional costs.
SoldierScholar scholarships are available to veterans who fought in the recent War on Terror, which includes Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. SoldierStrong, which primarily provides revolutionary medical technologies to Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country to help injured veterans lead full lives, has also awarded more than $500,000 through SoldierScholar since 2012. This year’s recipients include:
Michaela Rubinfeld, Georgetown University – Master of Science in Foreign Service
Michaela Rubinfeld has served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves for the past three years, where she is currently an all-source analyst. She earned a bachelor of arts in international studies and Chinese from the University at Buffalo before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in foreign service with a concentration in science, technology, and international affairs at Georgetown University. Throughout her time at Georgetown, Rubinfeld will concentrate on emerging technology, focusing on ethical applications of blockchain technology in an increasingly digitized society. She aspires to serve with the U.S. State Department to forge strong relations with other countries and ensure a safe future for generations to come. Michaela’s supportive husband, Conner, is a Navy veteran. “SoldierStrong provided me with more than just a scholarship, they provided a true gift that I am incredibly thankful for. This scholarship will enable me to focus on my studies on my journey to a career where I will be able to continue to serve my country in new and different ways,” Rubinfeld said.
Jessica Evans, Old Dominion University – Civil Engineer Technology
Jessica Evans served in the U.S. Navy as a sonar technician while stationed in Hawaii and around the world. In part due to financial considerations, Evans did not go to college directly after high school, and instead was inspired to join the military branch in which both of her grandfathers served. She sees her service as a way to honor their legacy. After finishing her bachelor’s degree in engineering, Evans plans to pursue her master’s degree. “Growing up I never dreamed about going to college let alone going as far as pursuing my master’s degree. So, to have this opportunity to reach for my dreams is really special,” Evans said.
CSM Andraus L. Williams, University of Southern California – Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership
Command Sergeant Major Andraus L. Williams enlisted in the U.S. Army as a field artilleryman. He served five years on active duty prior to joining the California Army National Guard and joining the Military Police Corps. His combat and stateside tours of duty include Operation Uphold Democracy, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). In October 2020, Williams was appointed Senior Enlisted Leader for the Camp Roberts Garrison Training Center. He is pursuing his doctorate degree in organizational change and leadership at University of Southern California. “Words cannot express what receiving a SoldierScholar scholarship means to me. I appreciate SoldierStrong, co-chairman Meek and what they do to support our nation’s heroes,” Williams said.
Ryan Lamson, Syracuse University – Master of Public Administration/Master of International Relations
Ryan Lamson joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007 as an infantry rifleman where he served with 2/1 F during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He went on to serve as an embassy guard, infantry squad leader, and family readiness administrative assistant for the USMC, as well as a cleared American guard for Coastal International Security. A 2021 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship finalist, Lamson is the recipient of multiple awards from the U.S. Department of State, United States Marine Corps, and St. Edward’s University. “I am thankful to be a recipient of a SoldierScholar scholarship and the opportunity to continue my passion for public service and international affairs. This scholarship adds to the opportunities I have at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs to hone the leadership and management skills I first learned in the service,” Lamson said.
Andrés Trejo, Syracuse University – Master of Public Administration/Master of International Relations
Andrés Trejo graduated from the Levantine Arabic Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute where he led a team of 18 service members through the 64-week Arabic course. He served as a U.S. Navy cargo team member aboard the USS George H.W. Bush where he was responsible for more than $2.1 million of food and supplies for over 6,000 sailors. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and is currently a dual MPA/MAIR candidate. “I want to thank SoldierStrong for its support through the SoldierScholar Initiative. This scholarship will not only aid in my academic endeavors but it will also provide me the opportunity to continue to use my leadership and service experiences while at Syracuse University as well as in my professional career,” Trejo said.