2020 Tillman Scholar

Sadia Ali Heil

Air Force
George Mason University

“Inclusion begins in early childhood, and I am passionate about building educational and recreational opportunities that embrace neurodiverse children. I vow to help build a more inclusive world for my children and the generations that follow.”

Sadia‘s parents emigrated from Pakistan with the resolve for a better life. They instilled in her the values of honesty, hard work, and service to family and community. After 9/11, Sadia witnessed an intense backlash against the Muslim American community. She felt a strong sense of duty, and joined the U.S. Air Force a few years later.

Sadia discovered her zest for education while serving in the military. Early on, she became an Air Force instructor and evaluator. Later in her career, she led an interagency subject matter expert exchange on counter-violent extremism with the Department of Justice, the U.S. Defense Attache for Sri Lanka, and the Maldivian National Defense Force.

As a mother, an Air Force reservist, and a military spouse, Sadia is enthusiastic about advocacy and education. She holds a master of education in special education, with a focus on autism spectrum disorders. She envisions serving individuals with disabilities—the world’s largest minority—through teaching, advocacy, and helping the most vulnerable communities access the services they deserve.