40 Years: 1980 - 2020

SOWF College Planning Conference

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 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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SOWF has been there since day one of my bachelor's degree.

They have always made sure I got what I needed for my living expenses as well as my semester expenses. They not only have given me financial stability when I needed it the most, but also moral and emotional support. If it wasn’t for SOWF I wouldn’t be the professional teacher that I am today. For every success that I made and continue to make in my life, SOWF will be there at the top of the list for all of the thanks and recognition that they deserve for helping me carve my future.

Steven Schmauss Read More
SOWF provided me with the opportunity to be more engaged

in my studies rather than worrying about jobs and extracurricular work to pay for schooling. In addition, I was able to invest my time in leadership positions which have taught me so much as a person.

Ryan Soltes Read More
I cannot begin to express my gratitude,

knowing throughout the college admissions process, that the financial burden of college was no longer on our family. I am forever thankful for all the incredible things SOWF does for military personnel and their families. I am proud to be attending my dream school, the University of Chicago, because of all the Foundation does to honor those who have given their lives. 

Forrest Haydon Read More