Scholar Spotlight: Rocio Ramirez

In honor of her service and in recognition of Veteran’s day and Month of the Military Family, we shine a spotlight on 2008 recipient Rocio.  Rocio attended the University of Kansas and now serves in the United States Army.

How did/do your parents serve?  

My father served 22 years in the Army as an enlisted Soldier.  He began his career as a combat engineer then switched to a paralegal.

What made you decide to serve?   

My dad persuaded me to join JROTC in high school.  He had me convinced to accept an ROTC scholarship from The University of Kansas until I found out I received the Picerne/Corvias scholarship.  I loved the idea of giving back to my country but was scared of being deployed and back in 2008-2012 all of my friends who joined were immediately deployed. I finished school and began working as an event coordinator helping veterans.  The work was important and kept me busy but I wasn’t fulfilled and kept thinking about the service. My dad loved his job as a Soldier and he encouraged me to set a deadline for myself. He said he thought I would enjoy the Army and be a good leader.  When I hit a certain age I should either go talk to a recruiter or, if the desire to serve wasn’t strong, I would stay at my job. I set a goal to prioritize my life on my 25th birthday and I still wanted to be a Soldier when I reached that age. I enjoy how each day is different, that I get to work with and influence younger Soldiers, and that fitness is a daily priority

How did growing up with the military affect your decision to serve?  

Growing up with the military influenced my decision heavily.  When I was younger I believed everyone was in the military and moved around every three years.  I was in middle school when I discovered that there were people who lived their whole life in one house.  It blew my mind and my dad laughed when I told him about it. Seeing Soldiers walk around in uniform on post was comforting, living on post made me feel safe, and the benefits we experienced through Tricare and travel were all familiar.  I felt comfortable and well prepared with my decision to serve.

Is being in the military what you expected it to be based on what you saw growing up?

No, being in the military shocked me.  My dad was an enlisted paralegal which meant he worked in an office and hardly ever went to the field.  He convinced me to become an officer through Officer Candidacy School at Ft. Benning, GA. I became a Chemical Corps Officer and am now working in an Air Defense Artillery unit in Korea.  I was spoiled in that my dad was never gone more than 6 months and was not deployed for OIF/OEF. I lacked the common sense to predict that I would need to learn to use a weapon and experience time in the field for weeks at a time. I know now that being in the military can mean very different things depending on your job and I love the experiences I’ve had.

What are you currently doing overseas?

I’m working with an Air Defense Artillery unit of over 900 Soldiers.  Air Defense Artillery watches the skies to monitor for anything unusual.  I oversee and assist the units in training for different tasks in preparation for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) attacks.  I also advise the unit on what preventive measures should be considered for a pre-determined CBRN attack and decontamination procedures for people and equipment if attacks were to happen.  All of these tasks are training; there is no known risk here. Besides that, I monitor safety accidents and risk mitigation for Soldiers. I help plan some of the holiday events; I’m planning a Zombie Run for the unit, I planned a march for Women’s Equality Day in August, and am learning about ammo and missile storage safety on my spare time.

What is your daily routine like?

We start the day with physical training for an hour and a half.  Then I head to the office from 0930 until about 6 pm and work on various tasks we have to complete for the week. There are constant training activities and no day is the same. The majority of Soldiers in Korea are here for 9-12 months so continuity is difficult to maintain.  The constant rotation of Soldiers makes it challenging to keep units certified and there becomes a never-ending cycle of training. It’s exciting and fast-paced for sure.

What has been something that’s surprised you about serving overseas?

I was surprised at the public transportation systems.  They’re easy to use and there are apps that tell you arrival and departure times of trains. It’s even possible to buy your train tickets on apps to avoid lines!  I’m also surprised by how many cafe’s do not offer regular brewed coffee since mochas, cappuccinos, and espresso-based drinks are preferred. Plus, fresh produce is expensive at $1 for one apple, orange, banana or one kiwi on a regular day.  After Hurricane Michael, a head of lettuce was $7. We receive COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) which definitely helps.

What is something that you miss from home right now?

I miss so many things from the states.  I miss seeing an alphabet I understand because I haven’t learned Hangul.  The language barrier has been the hardest part for living in Korea. Also, I miss human touch.  My family always gave hugs when we woke up or went to bed and we have always been affectionate. That was my greatest adjustment when joining the military as it’s not Soldier-like to touch others.  I’ve learned not to be as affectionate but there’s an aspect of physical contact that I feel is necessary for humans and makes me homesick. Koreans are not accustomed as Americans are to touch and do not high five, handshake as often, or stand too close.  Many Korean women acknowledge others by nodding their head instead of shaking hands.

Is there anything you’d want to share about the experience with the Corvias family?

I’m incredibly grateful to have a support group that I know will always be there.  The scholarship recipients have a common bond in being goal-getters and giving back to their communities.  The constant emails and social media posts make me feel like I’m a part of your experiences. Sometimes we may go months without saying hi but the foundation has given me a network of peers that have proved their dedication to each other by making retreats and communication frequency a priority.  Without a doubt I know I can crash on someone’s couch or meet them for lunch if I’m visiting their city. I love seeing how we’re all accomplishing our goals and pushing forward to make the most of every experience. I’m thankful to have a group of cheerleaders in my life to bounce ideas from or ask questions. Thank you for all the support and I’ll see you soon!

 

 

Scholar Spotlight: Serena Walker

In running the Marine Corps Marathon in October, 2008 recipient Katie fundraised for Team Red White & Blue.  To thank them for their donation, Katie asked friends and family to dedicate miles of the race to servicemembers who were important to them.  Current or past, several years or service or just months, all requests were honored.  Katie had the privilege of running for two members of our Corvias family, who are currently serving our country from overseas.  In recognition of Veteran’s Day and the Month of the Military Family, we will shine spotlights on both of them.  The first is on 2009 recipient, Serena who attended Baylor University and now serves in the United States Air Force.

How did/do your parents serve?

My father served in the U.S. Army, enlisting in 1976, then becoming a Chaplain in 1995.  He retired earlier this year after more than 30 years of service to his country and dozens of moves and assignments across the globe.

What made you decide to serve?

When I was looking at colleges as a high school senior, I received a letter in the mail about Air Force ROTC.  It was the first time I ever seriously considered it, because I never, ever thought I would make it in the military. However, they were offering programs I was interested in and my dad convinced me to at least give it a chance.  I joined ROTC, made some close friends, and before I knew it four years had passed and I was commissioning into the Air Force.

How did growing up with the military affect your decision to serve?

Growing up as a military brat, we moved every 2-3 years.  I always knew I wanted a lifestyle that afforded me the opportunity to travel and move around frequently, so the military definitely made sense.  That being said, watching my dad’s experience in the military, I knew that it would be a round-the-clock job.  In a way, there is no such thing as being off-duty, because we are on call 24/7.

Is being in the military what you expected it to be based on what you saw growing up?

I think I expected people to be kind of gruff and mean.  Instead I have met some incredibly warm and friendly people.

What are you currently doing overseas?

I am stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska as a Force Support Officer, but I am currently deployed to an undisclosed location.

What is your daily routine like?

I wake up, work out at the gym at the 0530, grab some breakfast, and then head to work.  I work until about 1800, then hang out with friends in the evenings. I am lucky to have met a group of awesome people here.  It is a very small base, so there is definitely a small-town vibe where everyone knows everyone. Together, we play cards and board games, go to the USO concerts, grab food at the Dining Facility, and make great memories.  Even though it gets hard being far from home, we make the most of the time that we have with each other.

What has been something that’s surprised you about serving overseas?

After two overseas assignments and now this deployment, I have been surprised by the level of camaraderie you find at overseas locations.  Because we are all so far away from family, it’s invaluable to have a local support network. People tend to bond closely and practically become family to each other.  At the end of the day, it’s the relationships you form with other people that make or break an assignment.

What is something that you miss from home right now?

I miss the food!

Is there anything you’d want to share about the experience with the Corvias family?

I am extremely grateful that the Corvias family has kept me in their thoughts. It means the world to deployed members when they know they have support from friends and family back home.

Alumni Spotlight: A Conversation with Cristi Rader

Cristi Rader is the newest member of the Corvias Foundation Board of Directors, the first scholarship alum to be appointed to the board. When we recently sat down with Cristi, she talked about networking with her Corvias Foundation family, how inspiring it is to hear fellow alumni share their goals and aspirations, and how she hopes to mentor and connect with current scholars.

Cristi Capture

How has Corvias Foundation’s commitment to reaching higher been influential to your growth as a person? 

It has encouraged me to be open-minded to the possibilities and reach higher in all that I do! From furthering my education, to giving back projects, building more connections, and wanting more for myself and others. I am not restricted to one goal or one achievement, the opportunities to reach higher are limitless.

What did getting a scholarship mean to you? 

It changed the trajectory of my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but it truly did. I had the opportunity to be a part of an organization that provided a support network of military children that I could relate to. Corvias Foundation understood the college transition of a military child and provided resume building and internship opportunities while in school. After college they went above and beyond the dollar to connect with me and all alumni by bringing us together. Because of Corvias Foundation, I have found my passionate pursuit to give back to those that I share a unique and inspiring connection with.

What motivates you to give back?  How important is it?

I feel I should lead with my heart in all that I do. My motivation is derived from witnessing the Corvias Foundation network give abundantly.  Scholars, alumni, mentors, employees, friends, and family they have remarkable stories of giving. I am motivated by all of the stories and projects across the country because I genuinely believe they are all leading with their hearts. As I am watching and witnessing others give back, I have a daughter watching me. Listening, learning, and doing for others is the example I want to set. She is the reason it is important to me to give back and make an impact in our community together.

You spoke of the excellence of the Corvias scholars, can you give some specific examples of that?  

John Picerne and I spoke about the difference between my 2007 incoming freshman cohort and the current incoming freshman scholars. They raise the bar every year. Reviewing applications I found myself surprised, now they literally bring me to tears. Their stories, competitive edge, and desire to learn is inspiring. I always look forward to meeting the new scholars in Boston and putting a face, personality, and energy with the name from the application, it just makes me smile with pride.

The alumni are the heroes around me. Out in their communities giving back and making a difference. Kaitlynn, is making a difference every day in her students’ lives as a teacher. On her limited off time, she is reaching higher and putting herself through school. She just graduated with her masters and is applying to a doctorate program by the end of this year. Completely changing her field of choice, which some may say is risky, I call it brave and ambitious. Paul, Kris, and Kaylan started their own businesses because they are driven individuals and had the courage to do what makes them happy. Kris offers a yoga program to honor Veterans and support joined forces. Brittany is literally reaching for the stars. She has dreamed of going to space since she was little. We have several alumni taking tremendous initiative in their professional medical fields. They are true trail blazers! These are a few examples of the examples of the nearly 100 alumni that are achieving excellence. We have a diverse group of subject matter experts in our alumni network and I am proud of all of them! They are all empowered, connected, and capable humans that inspire others.

As a new member of the Foundation board, what are you most excited about?   

I am excited to hear and learn from existing Board members. Learning what is important to them as individuals and creating new innovative programs for scholars and alumni. I am excited to serve and support the exponential growth of Corvias Foundation.