How volunteer work and the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship has impacted the lives of past recipients

Since 2000, DAV and longtime partner Ford Motor Co. have awarded more than a $1 million through the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program to young men and women for their volunteer support of veterans.

Many dedicated youth volunteers have benefited from this program, which distributes $75,000 among eight individuals each year in honor of their tremendous contributions.

“The volunteer time these young adults invested in their communities not only played an essential role in forming their futures but also taught them a lot about themselves,” said DAV National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst “By putting others before themselves, our past recipients of the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship have proven it can make things a little easier on themselves down the road.”

Shreveport, La., native Crystalyn Whitaker took home the top scholarship in 2008 and used it to attend Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., where she earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary English and history education in 2012.

2008 Winner – Crystalyn Whitaker, high school teacher

Whitaker was able to make it through college with no loans at all and thanks the scholarship program for easing the financial burden.“It took such a load off of me and my family,” said Whitaker.

Today, Whitaker is a high school teacher by day, who handles ACT test preparation throughout the Caddo Parish school district in Shreveport, and a published poetess and spoken-word artist by night.She credits her volunteer work for paving the way forward.

“It was one of the main developers of who I am today, and I do not say this as a cliché, neither do I take it lightly,” said Whitaker. “It taught me how to serve selflessly. I learned what it meant to give without being asked—taking initiative.

“It taught me to be responsible It honed my communication skills and built my self-confidence,” she added. “It taught me that I work well with others, and I needed to work in a field that allowed me to serve and converse with people. I enjoy teaching and helping to brighten someone’s day.”

The impact of the scholarship on Whitaker’s life goes beyond developing a positive work ethic or discovering a career path she enjoys.Her dedicated hard work and the financial benefits that it yielded have enabled her to do what many of her peers cannot.

“This scholarship is a huge part of the reason why I was able to purchase a home at 25 years old,” said Whitaker.“I was not crushed under astronomical student loan debt.This scholarship has definitely impacted my life greatly.”

Jamal Childs was awarded the top scholarship in 2009. After graduating from high school, he left his home in the nation’s capital to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C., where he studied graphic design. Childs graduated in the spring of 2015.

“Having the scholarship helped for sure with my family in covering costs for school,” said Childs. “It also acted as a silent motivator and incentive to continue doing better in class.”

Childs said he initially began volunteering with veterans to have something to do during the summer months, but the more he volunteered, the more he appreciated the experience.

2009 Winner – Jamal Childs, graphic designer/artist

“I started enjoying the program because of the area I was working in and the work I was doing in the biomedical engineering department. I legitimately always felt that I was contributing to something bigger than any single action I was taking on a given day,” said Childs. “It helped instill compassion, humility and patience—three major components that I feel are needed when working with people in general, but especially when working with veterans.”

Currently, Childs is working inside the Washington DC VA Medical Center for Langley Provider Group, a contractor based in Baltimore, but he has his sights set on his own business.

“I’ve started my own art collection business named Odd Watch Productions back in June of 2016,” said Childs. “Art is a passion of mine, so I’ve pursued it all through high school and kept it going through undergrad via graphic design. I’ve been working on new art pieces and projects in hopes of organizing my own solo gallery this year.”

In 2010, Solene Goycochea earned a Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship for her volunteer work in the San Diego area. She attended Yale University, graduating in 2014 with a double major in economics and Spanish.

“My volunteer work at the VA has left an indelible mark on who I am as a person, and to receive a scholarship for that work was a tremendous honor that I will be forever grateful for,” said Goycochea. “The Jesse Brown Scholarship meaningfully lessened the burden on my family to support me while I pursued my studies.

Goycochea got into volunteering because of her father, Alan, who was in the Army.

“He was an Army Special Forces guy and served in both Korea and Vietnam and was an instructor in the U. S. Army Jungle Warfare School in Panama,” said Goycochea. “He got bayoneted in the back in Korea and lost an eye in Vietnam, and I never heard him complain Once. For me, having the opportunity to help some of the bravest and most selfless Americans was a privilege and a great honor.”

2010 Winner – Solene Goycochea, portfolio analyst

Following graduation, she worked for an investment bank for nearly two years before transitioning to her current job in New York City at the endowment for Phillips Academy, one of the top private high schools in the world.

“It is incredibly fulfilling for me to work on growing capital to provide scholarships for the students at Phillips, particularly as my success and opportunities were only made possible by the generosity of others in the form of scholarships such as the Jesse Brown Scholarship.”

“It may be the best-kept secret in the world of scholarships, but we want to make it known to our current and prospective youth volunteers,” said Kleindienst. “I see the work and effort these young adults put into their volunteer service time, and I want to see as many of them recognized as possible for their invaluable contributions to DAV.

“It would be great to see more young people taking advantage of the program,” he added. “We received just 32 submissions in 2015 and 52 in 2016, but provided 16 scholarships over that timespan. If you do the math, that means nearly 20 percent of applicants receive a scholarship. If you’re a young man or woman looking for a rewarding volunteer experience and would like to lessen the financial burden of higher education, there may not be a better place to start.”

The scholarship is open to volunteers who are 21 or younger and have contributed a minimum of 100 hours credited through DAV or DAV Auxiliary.


Learn More Online

To learn more about the Jesse Brown Memorial Scholarship program or to download nomination materials, visit