2020 Tillman Scholar

Roberto Diaz

Marine Corps
University of Missouri - Kansas City
Ed. S.

“Everyday we are at war to save humanity, and education is our most powerful weapon to make that happen. I am a proud educator; I am a weapon.”

As a 19-year-old Latino, Roberto decided to step outside of his comfort zone and take on a role he never thought would be possible; becoming a U.S. Marine. Being the son of illegal immigrants, he decided to enlist in exchange for all the opportunities this country provided to his family. Upon arrival to boot camp, he vividly remembers the drill instructor yelling, “YOU ARE HERE TO SERVE A PURPOSE GREATER THAN SELF!” To this day, Roberto lives by this creed.

The challenge of finding a sense of purpose has been a struggle for many veterans after leaving the military, but this is not the case for Roberto. Roberto figured if he could fight for America, he could also teach for America. As a result, he purposefully aimed toward education and embarked on a journey across the country to teach in the most under-resourced schools serving the most disadvantaged children. Roberto had no other desire but to serve in the front lines—so much so that his peers called him the “infantry teacher.”

What began as a career change ended up becoming his calling. Today his purpose has grown beyond the edification of others as he is now on a trajectory toward improving the quality of education for all disadvantaged children in America.

Roberto firmly believes that education is the most important vehicle for change, and he is grateful that his military experience has helped him grow into what he is today.