Del Mar Times
JEANNE MCKINNEY, STAFF WRITER
The Hilton Del Mar hosted a gathering of supporters and friends for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation’s inaugural San Diego Awards dinner recently. As the nation’s oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships to military families, the foundation was there to honor major donors, Marines, and children of Marines and Navy corpsmen during the Month of the Military Child.
High-ranking Marine and Naval officers and other Marines in colorful dress uniforms escorted spouses and significant others. They brought a legacy of service and sacrifice to the celebration.
Margaret B. Davis, president and CEO of the foundation, was cheerful and gracious while praising the honorees: “We believe that the children of Marines and Navy corpsmen are truly the future of this country. They are raised with honor, courage and commitment — they are doing great things.”
As the granddaughter of a World War I Marine corporal, the wife of a 38-year Marine officer (now retired), and the mother of an active-duty Marine, Davis has her own legacy of service. “I learned passion for Marine families when my husband was a battalion commander —- when I saw the impact (of service) on 900 families that were under his command and care. We said to each other, ‘We’ve got to take care of these families.’”
She has done so ever since. She explained how with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, “Funding is 100 percent private contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. These are all folks who believe that this program is one of the best investments they can make.
“We are the only military scholarship provider that funds every eligible student,” stated Davis. Eligibility depends largely on financial need, coupled with a parent’s Marine Corps service or Navy corpsman service with a Marine unit, and a student’s grade point average of 2.0. “There’s tremendous pressure for our resources, because there are a lot of great eligible students,” Davis said. Most of the foundation’s students have a 3.0 or better.
The foundation tracks its scholarship recipients. “We can tell every investor exactly what student they are investing in, and then tell them what happens, what those students are studying, when they are graduating, and what they go do.”
Brittany Brown, the daughter of a recently retired Marine Corps master sergeant with 22-plus years of service, was excited to be a speaker at the dinner. Brown is a “growing investment” at Cal State San Marcos.
“I’m studying biology right now, with an emphasis on molecular cell biology,” said Brown. “I actually want to be an oncology nurse. I want to do more work with cancer. Without this opportunity, I would probably not be saying ‘I’m graduating next year.’ It’s a huge blessing to be able to just focus on school.”
Brown has two sisters, also attending school. She offers some advice: “Reach out around you — family is not just a nuclear family. Honestly, that’s what the Marine Corps is all about. I made a lot of friends that supported me when my dad wasn’t there, because they understand the experience.”
Andrew Javier Coba, another recipient of the foundation’s generosity, was also an awards attendee. Coba was 4 years old when his father (an American citizen) chose to join the military and moved his family from Quito, Ecuador, to the United States. “He had two kids, no education, and the Marine Corps was our best option for a promising future,” said Coba. He outlined the challenges of growing up in a military family. “Our generation — we come from years of war, of loss, and sacrifice. It was a lot of struggling in the fact that — we’re missing our parents.”
Coba’s father is an active-duty aviation maintenance officer, selected to be promoted from captain to major. “They work a lot,” said Coba. That creates extra burdens in a household, especially when the father is gone on deployment.
“I had to grow up at a faster rate than other kids,” he said. An upside for him has been that “We’ve become a really tight-knit group. We’ve had to prove our commitment to each other.”
Being on the foundation’s tracking radar “is one of the greatest honors I’ve experienced in 23 years of age,” said Coba. “I feel like I’m representing this great organization (Marine Corps) — this extended family. I love and am happy to represent them.” Coba is working hard to graduate with a degree in civil engineering. “I want to strengthen America’s infrastructure for the future and help out as many communities as possible.”
Since 1962, 33,000 scholarships valued at nearly $90 million have been awarded to children of Marines and Navy corpsmen. “Our students are graduating at a rate more than twice the national average — in the 86 percent range. That’s a good investment,” said Davis.
Investments in kids like Brown and Coba are not subject to the stock market rise and fall. Passions drive their futures.
“These kids don’t know the meaning of ‘work hard,’ because they are military children. They live hard every day and so they are going on and achieving their dreams,” says Davis. “Most importantly, they are giving back to America right away. They truly are strengthening our country.”
“Exceptional” is what Davis calls this rising generation that the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation helps educate.
Brown considers it an honor to be a beneficiary: “I’d like to say thank you to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation for everything.” And Coba hopes one day to return the favor to other students and become a donor himself.