Three students won a top scholarship for student veterans and their families showing strong academics and community leadership.
Leilani Attillo, a nursing practice doctoral student, Aaron Banas, who is working towards a doctorate in psychology and Jessica Blake, a doctoral candidate in physical therapy, were named the 2017 Tillman Scholars. The students collectively will receive $70,000 to help finance their education, according to a University release Friday.
The Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships, investing in about 520 students since their launch in 2004. The award was named after Pat Tillman, who put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve in Afghanistan after 9/11. Tillman died in service in 2004.
More than $1 million is awarded annually to students at the university level who are active-duty members of the military, veterans or military spouses to assist with the cost of books, housing, tuition and additional school-related costs.
Attillo, who will receive a three-year $30,000 scholarship, said that she was inspired to go into nursing after the death of her mother. Prior to enrolling in nursing school, Attillo joined the military as an Army ROTC candidate and later served as a critical care nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Attillo hopes to focus on drug overdose prevention and advocacy for patients and wants to help train future nurses, according to the release.
“Closing the gap in ideologies can only be achieved if we place dignity, respect and compassion at the foundation of our personal and professional life,” Attillo said.
Banas, a former U.S. Navy Corpsman, will receive a two-year, $20,000 scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. He said that he hopes to use his degree to help mental health providers transition veterans back into civilian life and to create a collaborative community where psychotherapy is normalized.
“Life is about recovery after battles both physical and emotional,” Banas said in the release. “As a psychologist, I will help others recover from life’s hardships and find their way home.”
Blake, an Army wife who has worked for three years as a physical therapist aide at an Army health clinic assisting with the recovery of injured soldiers, will receive a two-year, $20,000 scholarship to earn her doctoral degree in physical therapy.
“I know what it’s like to experience a lengthy recovery process after trauma,” Blake said. “I want to help my patients achieve their goals through rehabilitation.”