Pictured: 2021 Graduate Elizabeth Ponder celebrates with her sister Samantha Ponder. Elizabeth graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Human Development and Family Services. Samantha Ponder graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Global Studies in 2020. Elizabeth and Samantha are the daughters of Army SFC James Ponder who lost his life in 2005 while assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
A Message from President & CEO Clay Hutmacher
This past year 2021 was a very productive year for Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). To all who supported the surviving children and Medal of Honor families we serve, please accept my most heartfelt thanks. Your support is making a huge difference in the lives of our families. In the paragraphs below I have highlighted our “Cradle to Career” approach, specifically some of the steps we have taken towards our top priority, student success — our focus being on SOWF children whose parent sacrificed so much for our nation. Please know there is additional detailed and related information offered throughout our website. Download the full impact report for 2021 here.
Research shows that children who attend preschool are significantly more likely to attend a post-secondary education institution and in turn have a chance at higher satisfaction and earnings in their adult lives. We offer $8,000 per student, per year in preschool assistance, setting the tone for their future growth.
SOWF funds unlimited tutoring for our students, from kindergarten through college.
Students with Disabilities
SOWF also funds individually tailored educational programs to our students with disabilities, an opportunity that is being utilized more and more.
Private K-12 School Tuition Assistance
In Q4 of 2021, our board of directors approved private school tuition assistance of up to $5,000 per student, per year, in kindergarten through 12th grade. Consistent with setting the tone in preschool, our hope is that the addition of this program provides parents an option for their child to attend the best school possible.
While in high school, SOWF offers students the chance to participate in our annual five-day college planning conference, Operation E.P.I.C. (Education Planning Information Conference), hosted in Tampa. Featured speakers in 2021 covered topics from personal financial planning to selection of college major and the admissions essay. We equip students with the practical information necessary to not only select the right school for them but also to make the transition to being a college student with as little disruption and anxiety as possible. Is E.P.I.C. value added? I think so, as 95% of students who attended E.P.I.C. in the last four years were accepted into the school of their choice.
It is also important to note that SOWF ensures fully funded college educations and additional educational opportunities to any public or private four-year college or university, or designated trade school. The choice is theirs.
Approximately 80% of our children attend college, a university, or a trade school, and in 2021 our college graduation rate was over 95%. Our college attendance and graduation rates are 30% above the national average! Specifically, I credit our Scholarships and Family Outreach Team for this tremendous success.