2020 Tillman Scholar

Ricky Holder

University of Chicago

“I will use my second chance to ensure others have their first. If I fail in my pursuit of public office, I will not fail in my pursuit of progress.”

After spending ten years in the California foster care system, Ricky enlisted in the U.S. Navy to evade the certain homelessness that awaited him upon emancipation. Though it was a decision made in desperation, it fundamentally transformed his life and provided him with the confidence needed to transcend the circumstances of his youth.

Ricky served for six years as an information systems technician, frequently deploying throughout the South China Sea aboard the U.S.S. Chancellorsville. Working alongside a diverse crew greatly expanded his worldview and allowed him to cultivate a collaborative leadership style that he intends on utilizing in his career in public service.

Upon separating from the Navy, Ricky married his high school sweetheart and enrolled at Foothill College, a community college in Northern California. After a year of diligent studying, Ricky was fortunate enough to be admitted as a Posse Veteran Scholar to the University of Chicago, where he currently studies public policy.

His experiences in the foster care system left an indelible mark on him, and witnessing his mother and brothers struggle to extricate themselves from the criminal justice system has provided him with an unshakeable sense of purpose. As such, Ricky intends on becoming the first in his family to graduate college, and upon doing so, he plans to attend law school and earn his juris doctorate. Eventually, he envisions returning to his beloved hometown of San Bernardino to serve as a public defender, with the hopes of one day reforming the child welfare system and upending the criminal justice system. Ultimately, he hopes to pursue public office, but in the event that he fails in this pursuit, he’ll not fail in his pursuit of progress.