Tillman Military Scholar

March 9, 2012 by staff 

Tillman Military Scholar, When University of Wyoming student Meghan Lucas first received word that she’d been selected as one of 2011’s Tillman Military Scholars, she had one simple thought:

“I have a lot to live up to,” she said. “That was my first thought.”

Whether she would say so or not, Lucas is well acquainted with high expectations — as a petty officer third class in the Navy, Lucas served on medical evacuation helicopters in Iraq and Kuwait before becoming a student double majoring in international relations and political science.

She is also currently in Washington, D.C. working as an intern for Sen. Mike Enzi. The rest of the time she spends participating in volunteer programs with the homeless as well as at a retirement home.

In short, she is driven, and part of that drive comes from what she expects of herself as a Tillman Military Scholar.

“It helps in the way of motivation, of providing that drive that they did find me a worthy candidate for being a Pat Tillman scholar,” Lucas said.

Although relatively new, the Pat Tillman Foundation has distributed $2.2 million to 171 Tillman scholars over the past three years. For those selected, it means continuing the legacy of service many scholars established in the military — or as a military spouse – as well as honoring the memory of Pat Tillman, who left the NFL to serve in the U.S. Army Rangers before being killed by friendly fire in 2004.

“We look at their history of service and how it’s impacted them, and, most importantly, what their goals are,” Tillman Foundation Director of Programs Hunter Riley said. “How do they want to make an impact? We’re looking for leaders and individuals who are dedicated to making that impact and have shown it through their past service as well as whatever field they’re pursuing now.”

Along with Nichole Juliano and Robert Niezwaag Jr., Lucas was one of three Tillman Military Scholars from UW in the 2011 class. Associate Dean of Services Dolores Cardona said UW was also pleased to be named a Tillman Foundation partner in 2011.

“One of the things we really like about the Tillman scholarships is that I think there’s a myth out there that the education benefits of the newly increased GI Bill and all of that pay for the full cost of education for veterans,” she said. “But when we did our work in looking at the need of veteran students, they still have a gap. The neat thing about Tillman is that they provide support for things like housing and other costs.”

By helping students with a drive for service, schools also benefit from the program, Cardona said.

“Our Tillman Scholars are doing really good things,” she said. “One of them is a graduate student, for example, and his work thesis is looking at identifying the needs of veteran students in the state of Wyoming, so it’s sort of looking at working with (UW) and then a couple of community colleges to do a survey of veteran students so we can get a larger picture of what they need.”

Being selected as a Tillman Military Scholars, is an honor that brings responsibility, Lucas said.

“Just being a Pat Tillman scholar makes me conscious of every opportunity I have to participate in things, to help people and to just learn what others are doing and apply that to my own life,” she said.

The funds can oftentimes help bring opportunities to fruition. If it weren’t for the scholarship funds she’s received as a Tillman scholar, Lucas said she would likely have not been able to be an intern for Enzi.

“Being a double major and a double minor, it’s just really hard for me to have any kind of a job because my schedule is so sporadic,” she said. “Honestly, if I didn’t have the money the Pat Tillman Foundation has given me, I wouldn’t have been able to move (to Washington, D.C.). You have to pay for everything in advance, and housing is unbelievable.”

But Tillman Military Scholars receive more than just financial support. Riley said regional and national conferences are organized every year, providing scholars the opportunity to see what others like themselves are doing around the country.

“Just being around peers who have done so much, are always doing so much and will continue to do so much, that helps me grow in a very different kind of way,” Lucas said.

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