Scholarship helps ALA member pursue Navy career

Posted On: Monday, 04 March 2024

Through the Spirit of Youth Scholarship fund, three separate scholarship opportunities are available for participants in American Legion Auxiliary programs: one for American Legion Auxiliary Junior members, one for the Junior Member of the Year, and one for participants in the ALA Girls Nation program. 
Maria Cornelius has been a lifelong Auxiliary member for 19 years. She is eligible for membership through George E. Fehringer, a World War II veteran. 
What does it mean to you to have a World War II connection to the military?
I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have this pre-existing and continual connection with the military. Being a member of the American Legion Auxiliary has been nothing but a positive experience. The resources and programs this community provides for upperclassmen in high school really shaped my college decision upon graduation, and ultimately influenced my decision to join the United States Navy to later commission as an officer.

Do you have any favorite events or programs you’ve participated in as an ALA member? 
As a junior in high school, I attended ALA Colorado Girls State. During this experience, I was able to meet other women who were also passionate about global affairs and had high aspirations after graduating high school. I met other women who were also interested in joining the military, and these acquaintances helped me decide that I wanted to be a part of Navy ROTC in college. As a little kid, I remember distributing poppies at my elementary school and singing the National Anthem for our school’s field day in sixth grade.

What college are you attending, and what are you studying?
I am attending the University of San Diego in California. I am studying political science with a double minor in naval science and music.

What sparked your interest in this area of study?
I hope to commission into intelligence or surface warfare intelligence upon graduation in 2027. I chose to study political science because the pathway is a great setup for pursuing intelligence later in my military career. The San Diego Navy ROTC unit is one of the most involved with the United States naval fleet and is located in a beautiful part of the country.

What inspired you to apply for an ALA Spirit of Youth Scholarship?
I have been a lifelong member of the ALA. My great-grandma Dorys — whom I was very close with when I was younger — volunteered and was a part of the ALA for almost 75 years. I was inspired by her contribution to this organization and her timeless sense of patriotism. I applied for this scholarship in her memory, knowing she would be proud I am pursuing an education and career with the United States Navy.

How did you feel when you found out you won this scholarship?
I was greatly honored, as I considered it a gift from those who volunteered and served before me. Winning this scholarship made it possible for me to attend the University of San Diego, and I feel very fortunate that I am able to study at this university.

What would you say to donors who support ALA scholarship funds to help students like you?
For one, I would like to say thank you! Your contribution to the ALA to help support students like me makes their education and career goals a possibility; it means so much. I feel blessed that I will be able to give back to my country as I go on to serve in the United States Navy but fully acknowledge that this opportunity has been made possible by the generous donors who help to support the funding of the ALA scholarship.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.