One of the joys I’ve experienced as the director of voluntary services is running the DAV Scholarship Program and seeing its legacy unfold.
Yes, it’s great to present a big check to a student volunteer each year at the DAV and Auxiliary national convention. It feels good to know that DAV has eased the financial burden of school for many students. It’s also heartwarming to know how much our nation’s veterans have benefited from the hours these young men and women have invested.
But the program’s enduring impact is understated.
DAV scholarships are different from many other programs out there. One of the primary eligibility requirements is volunteering at least 100 hours in DAV’s name. Many times, this requirement has become a catalyst for life change and new initiatives.
Caleb Campbell’s story comes to mind. He earned a $5,000 scholarship from us in 2017. He says he was hesitant to volunteer at first, but his mom pressed him to try it anyway. (He jokes that she “volun-told” him.) He helped with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Veterans Golden Age Games in St. Louis and wound up loving the experience. After that, he volunteered at the St. Louis VA Medical Center-Jefferson Barracks spinal cord injury unit, logging more than 1,000 hours.
He says the bonds he developed with veterans inspired him to pursue a career as a therapist. He used his scholarship toward a degree in recreational therapy from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. Today, Campbell works as a recreational therapist with the VA in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
During high school, Anit Tyagi started volunteering at the now-closed Denver VA Medical Center because of his interest in U.S. history and the nation’s core value of liberty. He says no other group has done more to preserve our freedom than veterans, and he wanted to get to know them better.
He started in the emergency department keeping company with waiting patients. Later, he branched out into geriatrics and hospice care.
These were Tyagi’s first experiences with the medical field. But they inspired him to enroll at the University of Denver, where he is using his $7,500 scholarship from 2021 to study chemistry and molecular biology. He hopes to eventually enroll in medical school, with a possible focus on geriatrics.
As he continues college, he’s also heading a program with the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center to document and preserve the stories of patients who come to the facility, both for the veterans’ families to have and for medical staff to better understand their patients.
These are just two stories about this scholarship’s impact. It hasn’t just put students through school. It’s been a long-term investment in people who continue to make a difference in veterans’ lives.
To learn more and apply, visit davscholarships.org.