Each year, the American Legion Auxiliary offers scholarships to exceptional military children, ALA members, and ALA Girls State participants to help offset the growing cost of a college education. Here are some of the remarkable accomplishments those recipients have gone on to achieve.
2016 Spirit of Youth Scholarship
Allison Horne joined the American Legion Auxiliary when she was just 11 years old.
Her grandparents were and remain the inspiration for her membership.
“My grandmother is a very active member in my New Jersey Unit 127, and I was eligible through my grandfather’s bravery,” Horne said.
Her grandfather, who served in the Korean War, told Horne countless stories about his experiences. She could tell the impact these memories had on him, and even as a young child, she knew what he had sacrificed was extraordinary.
“That took a lot of dedication,” Horne said. “It makes me really proud that someone in my family served.”
Horne believes membership in the ALA is a way to uphold the honor and respect that veterans deserve. Little did she know, the Auxiliary would give back to her as she started planning for her future.
“When I first applied to colleges, funds were very tight,” Horne said. “I was the last of three kids to go to college, so when it came time for me, I wanted to see if I could do anything to ease that financial burden.”
Her grandmother recommended she apply for the ALA Spirit of Youth scholarship, and she received it in summer 2016.
“It really meant so much to me,” Horne said. “It allowed me to go to my dream school, Samford University, and to get the education I have always dreamed of.”
Horne graduated early in December 2019 with a degree in nursing and has plans to work in a cardiac intensive care unit. She knows she is not alone in saying that financial support like the Spirit of Youth scholarship is the only reason this feat was possible.
“Scholarships are so important because they bring people into the education system who normally couldn’t get there,” Horne said. “I just thank the American Legion Auxiliary because I really wouldn’t be here without them.”
2015 Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship
Liza Ruzicka has always had a unique experience with education. Having attended over half a dozen school districts and many more schools, Ruzicka and her five younger siblings’ educations were rife with inconsistent curriculums. Ruzicka never got to finish learning cursive. Her sister was taught Civil War history three years in a row.
As a military child living in and going to school off the base, Ruzicka often felt a sense of being alone. That’s why, when she went to apply for college scholarships, she was shocked to see that many were available to her because of her father’s military service.
“The American Legion Auxiliary specifically, offering the Children of Warriors scholarship, to know that someone was thinking about me and that someone cared about me … was the biggest light at the end of the tunnel,” Ruzicka said.
“I was leaving my family, leaving a lot of my connection to the military, and someone was still there to support me and there were organizations vested in my interests – it really just meant the world to me.”
With the help of scholarships, Ruzicka began her college education at Brown University in fall 2015. She decided to concentrate on education studies and cognitive science in the hopes of helping students have a better education experience, while also looking at how schools provide assistance in the realm of mental health.
“Since I was a kid, one of my big goals if anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up was that I wanted to implement a universal curriculum in the United States,” Ruzicka said. “I always had the sense of wanting to be not just a recipient of education, but a shaper of my own education.”
Now a graduate of Brown University, Ruzicka’s plans for the future include an internship at Columbia University, more school, and one day, becoming the dean or president of a university.
You can support talented and passionate students like Allison and Liza by donating to ALA Scholarship Funds: www.ALAforVeterans.org/Donate.
Wanted! If you are a past American Legion Auxiliary national scholarship recipient, contact us at ALAMagazine@ALAforVeterans.org.
This article was originally published in the February 2020 Auxiliary magazine.