SOWF College Planning Conference Brings High School Students from Around the Country to Tampa

Navigating the college admissions process can be a daunting task, but knowing what to expect can ease the intimidation. As part of our commitment to helping the children of fallen special operations personnel reach their full academic potential, Special Operations Warrior Foundation hosts a comprehensive week-long college planning conference called Operation EPIC (Educational Planning and Information Conference), available to current high school students. By the end of this conference, students are able to answer questions like: What style of learning is best for me? What schools have the best programs for my interests? and What are admissions officers looking for in applications and essays?

“Operation EPIC is all about the students and their dreams,” said Edie Rosenthal, SOWF Deputy Executive Director. “We want the students to focus on their future and the steps they need to take to reach their academic and personal goals.”

Held at the University of Tampa, this year’s Operation EPIC class consisted Amy Chirinos Photography + Special Warrior Foundation (1)of 24 high school students from around the country, including North Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Washington, Texas, Georgia, California, Florida, Kansas, and Colorado. Additionally, four SOWF college graduates volunteered to guide and mentor the students. This four-day conference featured acclaimed guest speakers and presenters as well as the opportunity for students to experience campus life. Peter Van Buskirk, a 30-year veteran of the college admission process, provided students with tips and secrets for piloting through the admissions process.

“I learned so much in this short week. I’ve learned about the college admissions process and how to have a more successful future,” said Sydnie. While most of the students had never met, they all share a common bond of losing a parent who served in Special Operations. “Being able to meet kids like me, and bond with them, is such a blessing,” added Sydnie.

Dorm room accommodations and meals are donated by the University of Tampa, and local companies get involved by providing tours and presentations to the students. This year’s Operation EPIC included presentations by Regions Bank, Raymond James Financial, and Laser Spine Institute. Motivational speaker and former Army Ranger, Keni Thomas, spoke to the students about resiliency and decision-making.

“This has been a tremendous opportunity, to not only learn skills that will help me down the life path that I want, but also to make friends that will last a life-time,” said Donnie. “While life threw us a curve-ball, this is a chance to grab life by the horns and make it what we want.”

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