Special Operations Warrior Foundation brought high school students from across the nation down to Florida for our annual Education Planning Information Conference… or as we called it Operation EPIC!
This year’s event took place from June 14th through 17th and was slightly different than ones prior. Instead of taking place in the dorms at the University of Tampa, 21 SOWF high school students and four mentors, who are all SOWF graduates, stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Clearwater Beach. We would like to thank Apogee Engineering for their generous donation of hotel rooms, which allowed our students to experience EPIC in a beachside setting.
The week kicked off with MG (Ret) Clay Hutmacher, President and CEO of SOWF, welcoming our students to this annual event. Following the opening remarks, Senior Director of Programs, Edie Rosenthal, had the students play the spaghetti game. While the concept may seem easy, it was more difficult than it looked!
Peter Van Buskirk, Founder of “Best College Fit” – an informative program that details best practices and transitional access to post-secondary educations through healthy, productive and student-centered solutions to college planning – was the keynote speaker of the week. As a retired College Admissions Officer, he taught the students the innermost details of the college admissions process and gave them insights on how to craft their essays, resumes and class load to get into the college that best fits who they are and what they would like to do in life and in their future careers.
Former Army Ranger who fought in Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu, Somalia – AKA “Black Hawk Down” – and country music artist, Keni Thomas, shared his story of what he experienced during Operation Gothic Serpent to the students, and finished by playing a few of his songs, “Not Me” and “Another Mexico.” Keni also brought the PAWfect addition to EPIC, his service dog, Key.
To unwind after a day full of information, the students, mentors, speakers and staff had dinner outside with a full view of the ocean.