Skip to content

Operation E.P.I.C. is Back on Campus!

2022 Operation E.P.I.C. Recap Video

Thank you, American Airlines!

This past June 20 – 24, SOWF welcomed high school students from across the nation to Florida for our annual Education Planning Information Conference, or as we call it, Operation E.P.I.C.!

Our students had the opportunity to experience “college life” first-hand by staying on the University of Tampa campus – thank you University of Tampa! In addition to the University of Tampa, several other organizations contributed to the success of the conference. Kforce served as our title sponsor, Elevation Outreach assisted with specific logistics, and American Airlines, a long-standing generous partner of SOWF, flew both students and our mentors safely into Tampa.

No better way to break the ice!

The week kicked off with Major General (Ret) Clay Hutmacher, SOWF’s President and CEO, who provided the students with a look into SOWF. Our Director of Scholarships and Family Outreach, Barbara Secor, followed with additional comments and an “icebreaker.”

As the conference unfolded, Peter Van Buskirk, founder of “Best College Fit,” an informative program that encompasses a variety of high school and college-related useful applications, detailed best practices and transitional access to post-secondary educations through healthy, productive, and student-centered solutions to college planning – Peter was the keynote speaker for the week.

Keynote Speaker of the 2022 Operation E.P.I.C. — Peter Van Buskirk.

As a retired College Admissions Officer, he shared important details regarding the college admissions process, specifically focusing on the art of crafting essays, resumes and determining appropriate class load. The core message centered around the process and what practical steps to take to enter the college of their choice, looking ahead also to career paths.

Local professional finance managers, Engozi and Anica Burrows, who assigned each student a job and a location, instructed the students on how to create budgets based on their income. Some were surprised to learn how much living in their dream destination cost!

Frameworks of Tampa Bay facilitated two workshops during the conference. These workshops focused on valuable and practical information to help prepare our high school students with emotional intelligence skills that will be crucial when applying to college, as well as aiding in their success personally, academically, and one day, professionally.

“Good questions inform, great questions transform.”

Jimmy Palumbo, Founder of PivitU, taught the students the importance of building a personal brand. Jimmy talked in depth regarding critical networking and shared the benefits of having a strong LinkedIn page. It is not always about what you know, but who you know!

Finally, our awards dinner at the University of Tampa had a very special guest this year, retired Navy SEAL and business leader, Lieutenant (Ret) Jason Redman. Jason is a severely wounded warrior, New York Times and Amazon bestselling author, veteran advocate, business leader, and acclaimed leadership and resilience speaker. Facing a perilous situation, Jason fought back, however, was shot eight times, including a round to the face in a fierce firefight in Iraq. Our students had the privilege of hearing an incredible account while absorbing Jason’s daily practical and constructive approach: “Overcome Mindset.”

Making friends that will last a lifetime!

Operation E.P.I.C. is so much more than a college planning conference. Our students get the chance to interact with others who have had very similar life experiences – and the honest conversations paved the way to developing lifelong friendships.

Again, we would like to sincerely thank all the individuals and organizations who participated in making this conference possible. Your kindness has brought our students one step closer to discovering their passions, and ultimately, enrolling in the college of their dreams!