Three Fort Leonard Wood military children won $2,000 each in education scholarships from the Defense Commissary Agency for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
The Fort Leonard Wood Commissary announced earlier this week that Kynnedi Beck, Jessie Lucero and Darren McKenzie were among 2020’s 500 selected students worldwide.
“I am so honored and excited to receive this scholarship,” said Beck, who plans to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This is the first step in my journey to become a forensic pathologist and make a difference in my community.”
Lucero said he feels humbled to have been named a winner.
“It will help me to fulfill my dreams,” he said. “Without this scholarship, it would not be possible for me to do so. I promise that I will make the best use of (it).”
McKenzie said he feels energized to move forward with his education.
“This scholarship will greatly help me afford my degree and give me an opportunity to focus on my academics in order to succeed and excel in my classes,” he said. “I am greatly humbled to be chosen for this award, and I can ensure that it will be put to good use.”
Nearly every DeCA location announces local winners.
“Being a military child myself, this program has a very special place in my heart,” said Rachelle Davidson, Fort Leonard Wood Commissary store director. “Just seeing the positive impact for our military families in helping them succeed is one of the many reasons I truly love my job.”
The Scholarships for Military Children Program, which is administered by the Fisher House Foundation, was created in 2001 and has awarded 11,314 military children more than $19 million since its inception, according to the program’s website. It is primarily funded by manufacturers, suppliers and vendors whose products are sold at commissaries.
“We’re excited to report that the scholarship program continues to be a success in helping military families defray the cost of education,” said Robert Bianchi, DeCA director and chief executive officer.
To help limit the spread of COVID-19, no in-person congratulatory ceremony was held, as is customary, and winners were notified by mail instead, Davidson said.
She told students in her letter to keep their eyes on the prize and tried to motivate them to continue their education even in these tough times.
“Our lives have changed over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it can feel overwhelming at times for all of us,” she said. “The main focus for our students is health and safety and academic success. Just remember to be patient, kind, respectful, pace yourself, be responsible, accountable, plan, achieve and succeed.”
According to a program fact sheet, this year’s winners were selected from a pool of 5,627 applicants. A professional scholarship management firm evaluated the applicants and selected the winners.
DeCA officials stated that the selection criteria was based on multiple factors.
In addition to a 500-word essay, scholarship applicants submit their official transcript indicating a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale for high school applicants or indicating a cumulative minimum GPA of 2.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for students already enrolled in college, a June 18 release read.
For more information on requirements, upcoming applications, who can apply and official sponsors, visit www.militaryscholar.org.
“Congratulations to the Fort Leonard Wood winners of 2020,” Davidson said. “We are so proud of you. You truly inspire us all.”