What leadership roles or volunteer experiences have been important to you during your time at Maryland?
After high school, I enlisted in the Marine Corps where I served as an air traffic controller at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, NC. As a radar watch supervisor, I was responsible for managing the traffic flow of military and civilian aircraft with three neighboring air traffic control facilities as well as training and qualifying different positions within the radar branch. As a noncommissioned officer in the Marines, I was responsible for the training and overall welfare of the Marines in my unit.
At the Naval Academy, I was involved in the Midshipman Action Group where we cleaned up the local environment. During spring break 2007, I volunteered to be a part of the kitchen crew at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. At the University of Maryland, I was briefly involved with Engineers Without Borders on the construction of a youth community center in Addis Alem, Ethiopia.
What has your scholarship meant to you and how has it enabled you to pursue new and exciting opportunities?
I developed an interest in space exploration at fifteen, but did not take full responsibility for it. My parents were in the middle of an ugly divorce, to which I reacted by squandering away my days wandering the streets of New York. I vividly remember hitting rock bottom when I was told by a police officer that I could not use a subway car as a sleeping shelter.
On September 11, 2001, I was on the ground floor of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit and, shortly afterwards, I witnessed the impact of the second. Like many others, I was shaken into a new awareness that day. I asked myself difficult questions about my future and had to admit that I did not know who I was or what I was capable of. I realized then that my future rested in my own hands and that I could no longer point the finger at circumstance as the reason for my failures. Thus, during my senior year in high school, I enlisted in the military.
Although I was promoted rapidly in the Marines, I knew that I could not be satisfied by a military career alone—the Marines had instilled in me a need to continuously push my own limits. My job as an air traffic controller kept my dream of space exploration alive and reminded me of the passion I had developed in high school. Thus, after four years, I returned to pursue my education. With a concrete set of principles to guide me, I was accepted into the United States Naval Academy. Later, I voluntarily separated from the Academy to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. It wasn’t until the fall of my senior year that I realized the specific discipline to which I wanted to dedicate my life. Space propulsion presents an exotic and challenging field and is an area that I want to dedicate my career to.
It is a gift to be given a second chance and the road that I have taken is a humbling one. As an independent student, the scholarships that I have received have not only provided vital financial assistance but have also strengthened my resolve to carry on my education knowing that I have the support of others who also believe in my potential to succeed. When I left high school nearly a decade ago, I never thought that I would be where I am today. This May I will finally graduate. Without the generous contributions from my donors, I would not have been able to finish my undergraduate education and I would not have had the confidence and inspiration to apply for graduate school where I hope to continue my interest in space exploration.