We’re proud of these Tillman Scholars for continuing to make an impact on their communities. Read on to see how they continue to lead through action.
Kendra recently co-authored the article ‘“Ignored and Invisible’: Perspectives from Black Women, Clinicians, and Community‑Based Organizations for Reducing Preterm Birth” in Maternal and Child Health Journal.
Inspired by her father and brother’s military service and her mother’s career as a civil servant, Kendra chose to earn a Masters degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management at the University of Oklahoma to be of service to communities. While she was a masters student, Kendra began to work in the local Oklahoma City community on a variety of projects designed to enhance life outcomes in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. She understood that much of the work that the government, nonprofits, and individual volunteers perform are services to help communities in a moment of need or crisis but not to manage the root causes—this revelation led her to her next career move.
In 2011, Kendra moved to Arizona to pursue a Ph.D. in Community Resources & Development at Arizona State University. Her research focus centered on building community partnerships to enhance educational outcomes for children. In 2015, Kendra earned her Ph.D. Kendra strives to improve her community through research and action. Her motto in life is always to put her “ideas into action” and strive to do meaningful work, always.
The granddaughter of Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Germany, Poland, and Russia, Andrea grew up educated, and free to practice her faith, never once considered anything other than American. An obligation to uphold the American ideals that made this possible and a sense of civic duty led her to join the Navy upon graduating from college. As an officer, she spent nearly seven years of active military service in naval intelligence, including three years with Naval Special Warfare. In that role, she was able to draw attention to challenges faced by other female service members that her male peers were unaware of, but were happy to resolve. This experience led her to shift her focus of public service from broad admiration for American ideals to a strong conviction that the U.S. can and should lead the way when it comes to empowering women to lead, particularly in non-traditional fields.
Now with her master’s in law and diplomacy from Tufts, Andrea believes that inclusion of women is in a nation’s best self-interest: security increases when drawing from 100% of a nation’s talent. Over time, she also believes that social equality will grow from service in the armed forces as marginalized populations have the opportunity to prove themselves indispensable while risking life and limb. Long term, she hopes to develop a framework to influence policies that will improve women’s status internationally.
The Rachel Ray Show featured Kevin and his dog, Ellie, showing off her skills as a therapy dog. Their videos can be found on TikTok @goldenretrieverlife.
Driven to serve a greater purpose in life, Kevin enrolled in the ROTC and became an Army aviation officer. During his military career, he developed a passion for mentoring and developing others, pursuing this calling by becoming an instructor pilot and commanding the Army’s only Chinook flight school.
During a deployment, Kevin’s unit was accompanied by a service dog that brought comfort to soldiers, reduced loneliness and even flew in his helicopter wearing specialized hearing protection. This experience inspired Kevin to share the benefits of animal-assisted therapy to others. Upon redeployment, Kevin certified his golden retriever as a therapy dog and began volunteering in the local community. After visiting several schools, he witnessed firsthand the impact of animal-assisted reading programs on childhood literacy.
As a result of the pandemic, Kevin was no longer able to volunteer in-person with his therapy dog, Ellie, so he pivoted to social media as a way to help with others. During this process, he unexpectedly developed a global community passionate about his mission to spread smiles.