Nine Panthers were selected as the first beneficiaries of FIU’s newest scholarship opportunity geared toward veteran and military-connected students.
The Robert Henry Stovall Military Scholarship was created as part of a $200,000 gift to FIU from PayCargo, whose president and CEO is College of Business alumnus Eduardo del Riego ’82. The scholarship supports undergraduate students whose academic journeys have been influenced by their military experiences, and it is named in honor of the World War II veteran and prominent Wall Street investment analyst, who was del Riego’s beloved foster father.
“We are fortunate to be able to offer our deserving veteran and military-connected students additional financial support as they pursue their next careers here at FIU,” said Phillip Lloyd Hamilton, assistant vice president for Student Equity & Support. “We are extremely grateful to PayCargo for their commitment to our FIU and their belief in our students’ achievements.”
Among this year’s recipients are past, present and aspiring service members. These students were recognized during FIU's Annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast on Nov. 13:
Nicole Barber is a sophomore biological sciences major in the FIU Army ROTC. Inspired by her father, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Nicole plans to pursue a career as an Army physician. At FIU, Nicole is involved in undergraduate research on protein mutagenesis. She is also an executive-board member of the Delta Epsilon Mu pre-health professional fraternity and recently captained the Roarthon Dance Marathon committee.
Justin Casale is a Marine Corps veteran and a senior studying cybersecurity. During his service, Justin was an intelligence specialist and earned two Navy Achievement Medals, a Certificate of Commendation, and a Letter of Appreciation. He served as intelligence team lead and was responsible for four subordinate battalions' intelligence shops and a headquarters company. Upon graduation, he hopes to use his military experience and knowledge of cybersecurity in a career focused on service.
Katherine Ferrera is an Army veteran and a sophomore majoring in interdisciplinary studies. In the Army, Katherine worked in a Special Forces Sustainment Brigade packing parachutes, a task which demanded precision. Katherine attended airborne school at age 17 and was awarded for being the youngest parachutist to undertake plane jumps. She has volunteered for multiple community organizations, including Soldiers and Family Readiness.
Nicholas Hicks is a freshman biological sciences major in the FIU Army ROTC. Before enrolling in FIU this year, Nicholas participated in the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program, was a member of National Honor Society, and volunteered building houses for Habitat for Humanity. His dedication to his Junior ROTC program was recognized with the Superior Cadet and JROTC awards. Nicholas hopes to pursue a career as an Army physician and a pastor, guiding healing journeys both physically and spiritually.
Sabian Lopez is a sophomore history major and a member of the FIU Army ROTC. He has volunteered for numerous efforts, including canned food drives, Operation Santa Claus, Empty Bowls, Meals of Hope, and many more. In JROTC, he earned the rank of Command Sergeant Major was the highest-ranking enlisted Cadet in his battalion. Sabian intends to enlist in active duty upon graduation and aims to serve a career of at least twenty years.
Brandon Mercado is a veteran of the Marine Corps and a senior majoring in physical education. In the Marine Corps, he was an infantryman and a member of the Security Forces, rising to the level of Squad Leader. Brandon will graduate from FIU this December and already holds an associate degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Valencia College. Alongside his studies, Brandon is an NCSF-certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach. He hopes to pursue a graduate degree.
Luis Sanchez is a Marine Corps veteran and a senior majoring in information technology. During his service, Luis rose to the rank of Sergeant, specializing in troubleshooting and repairs for avionics equipment and supervising its maintenance, as well. Luis hopes to combine the life lessons learned from his time in the military with his academic experiences to build a career that blends the best of both.
Cynthia Tounn is an Army veteran and a sophomore majoring in cybersecurity. In the Army, Cynthia managed the maintenance and repair of aircraft and ANIVS equipment. Cynthia is a first-generation college student and the daughter of Cambodian immigrants who are survivors of the Khmer genocide. Their belief that higher education is the key to opportunity inspired her to join the military as a means to later enroll in college. Alongside her studies, Cynthia aims to earn her CompTIA Network and CompTIA Security certificates.
Victoria Valladares is a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management and a member of the Florida Army National Guard, where she serves as a 92A, Automated Logistics Specialist. During her studies at FIU, Victoria has interned with Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix and Carnival Cruise Lines, and she is a member of FIU’s Back of House club and the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality. Victoria plans to reenlist when her current contract is complete.