Black History Month: 3 Scholars Making a Social Impact

Blog | 01/29/2021

The Pat Tillman Foundation has a community of incredible military veterans and military scholars focusing on making an impact in healthcare, education, civil rights, and much more. In honor of Black History Month, we are proud to highlight some Tillman Scholars who are working on social justice initiatives and advocating for racial equality.

Nate Jester, 2019 Tillman Scholar

In today’s current climate, many are searching for ways to make a difference in the world. Nate Jester attended the U.S. Naval Academy and almost immediately was faced with racism and prejudice once becoming a Marine. After experiencing the ultimate culture shock upon entering the military, Nate concluded that he would use the racial divide he felt in the Marines to positively impact the community. 

Nate is a five-year Marine Corps veteran, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and is currently studying for the Bar Exam – all while working to fight systemic inequity. Nate was afforded several opportunities to see firsthand the systemic inequity in his hometown of Atlanta and while attending Harvard Law, and as a result, he’s made it his mission to bridge the gap for people experiencing racial inequality. In moving forward with the fight for racial equity, Nate emphasizes the importance of listening actively and validating others. Through this approach, he believes the country can move forward, especially as individuals work to realize their aspirations for a better America.

Listen to Nate’s Tillman Scholar Voices talk to learn more about his mission.

Keidrick Roy, 2017 Tillman Scholar

Keidrick Roy His work over the past decade has taken him from teaching English at the U.S. Air Force Academy to examining issues of race and ethnicity between the civilians and military. In 2017, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded him a grant to lead a project entitled “Beyond Black and Blue: Race and the Future of Civil-Military Relations,” which brought together students and professors from civilian liberal arts colleges, the Air Force Academy, and West Point to discuss strategies for teaching students about race and ethnicity within and across their institutions.

Based on his background and experiences, it is no surprise that Keidrick believes education is the starting point. From where we are today, his stance is that there is much more to do.

“Understanding the multifaceted political, economic and social dimensions of racism definitely requires changes be made to school curricula like improving the diversity of texts students read and nurturing their creative thinking about ways to make structural changes aimed at solving systemic inequalities,” he said.

Listen to Keidrick’s Tillman Scholar Voices talk to learn more about his mission.

Kendra Smith, 2009 Tillman Scholar

In 2020, as COVID-19 has spread and the fight for systemic justice has gripped the country, Kendra Smith has seen the power and importance of her work magnified, not only in the present, but in coming to terms with the shadows of racism in the past.

She believes that we can move beyond this helplessness to true change. Although individuals are coming from a number of different journeys and experiences to the cause of justice and equality, there is opportunity for everyone to make an impact.

“The time now is really to move from symbolic works and performative works to actually doing the work. And the work is different for each of us. And I think it’s rooted in your skills, in your talents, in your passion. …You can really hurt progress by not being fully involved or fully engaged. So all that is to say is that I really hope that people take this opportunity to reflect and to act in really thoughtful and meaningful ways.”

Listen to Kendra’s Tillman Scholar Voices talk to learn more about her mission.