Welcome back to the 2021 Tillman Scholars Spotlight! Each week, we highlight a few of the remarkable veterans and military spouses from our 2021 scholar class! These 60 individuals continue to embrace service beyond self in a variety of fields, from diversity and inclusion to medical breakthroughs, to make an impact and create a better tomorrow.
Our next group of scholars focuses on the humanities. With the values of Pat Tillman instilled in them and through leadership development, scholarships, and the support of a global community, they’re furthering their capabilities to become leaders in their individual impact areas.
“EXPRESSING YOURSELF IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT SAVES LIVES. IN MY SERVICE AS A CHAPLAIN, I WILL LEAD BY EXAMPLE TO NORMALIZE EXPRESSING EMOTIONS AND INFLUENCE ATTITUDES SURROUNDING MENTAL HEALTH IN THE MILITARY.”
Kanaan graduated from the University of Oklahoma, with degrees in Psychology and Judaic Studies. She will begin her second year at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in Fall 2021. Before Rabbinical school, she worked as the Engagement Specialist at Syracuse University Hillel, where she built relationships with Jewish students and student veterans by creating programs that helped students explore their individuality and connections to each other. Becoming a rabbi is the best way for Kanaan to prepare herself for service. She is dedicated to spending her life as a chaplain in service of others by empowering people to express themselves. Kanaan’s mission will strengthen the future of the military by enhancing the lives of service members.
Indebted by international experience and love of languages and literature, Jo is pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a writer and academic, focused on evolving towards a nonviolent world, where every individual can pursue their dreams without harmful or prejudicial barriers. She is currently earning her MFA in creative writing at Saint Mary’s College of California, while being published in literary magazines and working on an autobiographical novel.
As an English teacher at the Air Force Academy, she also served as a sexual assault victim advocate and theater director. She led hundreds of cadets in the Social Impact Theater Project, which brought the community together to find solutions to tough issues like suicide and sexual assault. Her desire to guide people through trauma also led her to become a therapeutic riding instructor, where she uses horses to help people find healing. Michelle is pursuing her Ph.D. in rhetoric and writing, so she can study how the humanities and strategic messaging can bring healing to military communities who struggle with trauma.
LeNaya has more than a decade of experience as a higher education professional supporting underrepresented student populations. She is a classically trained soprano where her music background paved the way to use her voice to advocate and create diversity, equity, and inclusion culture changes. While pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology at George Mason University, she founded NayceQuest LLC in 2020 to guide organizations as they explore, dive into a deeper understanding, and discover meaningful ways to shift our culture to be equitable and inclusive.