Heart of a Hero: Rowan University veteran student receives New Jersey scholarship award
If it’s the little things in life—kindness, compassion, and high aspirations—that make somebody heroic, then Rebecca Roberts has the true heart of a hero. Roberts, a sophomore at Rowan University, recently received New Jersey’s Heart of a Hero scholarship award.
The scholarship is a partnership between New Jersey Heroes and Walmart that grants 10, $5,000 scholarships to New Jersey students who have served in the military and are currently enrolled in a college, university or vocational program.
Roberts received the award from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie over the summer for her service in the Air National Guard and for her activism in volunteer work.
“I was shocked to receive the award because I haven’t even been enlisted for that long, but I was also very honored,” Roberts said. “Even though I’m new in the game, it’s nice to know that it’s the small things that count.”
Roberts’ ambitious career goals and warm heart make her stand out from a typical soft-spoken college student.
“I have always had military in my blood,” the Millville native said with a smile. “My grandfather was part of the British Royal Air Force in WWII and was actually a personal pilot to Winston Churchill. My father never got the chance to serve, but I’ve always had an interest in it.”
Roberts joined the Air National Guard with inspiration from her fiancé, Nick Cincotti, who enrolled in the Guard before her.
“I never even knew the Air National Guard existed before that. But, it seemed like the right choice,” said Roberts, who enrolled in May 2012.
Roberts is also currently studying political science in Rowan’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
“Because I’m part of the Guard, I can’t really express any opinions on current issues. For example, if someone asked about my opinion on the crisis in Syria, I’d have to refer them to the official statement.”
Still, she said, “I like being involved in politics and one day would really love to work in military public affairs.”
Like her grandfather before her, Roberts has kept her eyes to the skies. She is currently enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program at Rowan provided through St. James University.
“I hope to go on to do my 20 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot,” she said, adding she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of going on to receive her master’s degree or even going to law school.
A key component of the Heart of a Hero scholarship award is active volunteer work, something which Roberts embraces. Having worked with a tutoring program and with Gifted and Talented students in the past at Millville Senior High School, Roberts plans to continue her volunteer work with special needs students in the future.
But even on a personal level, Roberts has often reached out to those in need, even if all they needed was a friend.
“I met one of my best friends through my blog,” she said referring to a young man with Asperger syndrome that she befriended online. At first, he was reluctant connect with her, but eventually, the two became very close friends. “He started to feel comfortable enough to even have conversations with me and my fiancé over a webcam.
“His dream was to be in the Marines, but because that wasn’t an option for him, he enlisted in the Army and finished boot camp, which was still a huge accomplishment,” said Roberts of another aspiring military hero.