CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Two Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) students are being rewarded for their demonstrated commitment to both their country and their futures.
Nathan Peters and Jesse Khalil are the first PSU-LV recipients of the ROTC Scholarship awarded by the Steel Battalion of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Both students receive full three-year scholarships to PSU-LV.
Lt. Col. Preston Jackson, department chair of military science and leadership with the Steel Battalion, who administers the scholarship, called both students “absolutely deserving. They are amazing individuals who will do really well here.”
The Steel Battalion, headquartered at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, represents the entire Lehigh Valley and parts of Berks County. The program has 80 cadets in the program representing seven of the 11 schools in their footprint, from Lafayette College in Easton to Alvernia University in Reading, Berks County. Enrollment into the Steel Battalion is open to students of all Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) member schools in the Lehigh Valley. Students must be enrolled full-time in one of 11 nearby institutions and still participate in Army ROTC through Lehigh University.
“We’re one of the top ROTC programs in the country due to how we teach, coach, mentor and refine leadership with our cadets,” said Lt. Col. Preston Jackson, department chair and professor of military science and leadership, Steel Battalion ROTC at Lehigh University. “Cadets Khalil and Peters have been in the [ROTC] program for over a year now. Both have really high GPAs, great physical fitness and leadership qualities.”
Peters, a second-year psychology major, and Khalil, a second-year engineering major at PSU-LV, both enlisted in the PA National Guard and were already planning to serve their country. The scholarship has just made reaching their educational and military service goals a bit easier, they said.
“When I found this scholarship, I felt like I’d found a pot of gold,” Peters said. “It’s an ‘undershadowed’ scholarship — not many people know about it. From a young age, I’d already planned to go into the Army — to stumble across this scholarship was very beneficial.”
Khalil completed basic training and enlisted in the National Guard prior to applying for the scholarship. He is part of the Guard while attending classes at PSU-LV.
“The scholarship will be a tremendous help,” he said. “It’ll be nice to not have to worry about tuition, and I’ll also get a stipend. It’s a big relief, to say the least.”
Khalil said he plans to be an engineer in the Army National Guard while working a civilian job as an engineer. He has high praise for the ROTC program.
“It’s great for individual fitness training, and the second biggest benefit is the camaraderie. I’m with these guys all the time. I know from basic training — the more time you spend with a group of people, the more you like them and make friends. The ROTC program itself is not for the faint of heart. Don’t expect it to be easy, but if you put your all into it, you will have success," Khalil said.
Mark M. Capofari, supply chain and project management program coordinator at PSU-LV, is the students’ ROTC faculty adviser. He congratulated Peters and Khalil on their award and encourages more students to apply.
“This is an enormous accomplishment for Nathan, Jesse, and their families. As the first scholarship winners from Penn State Lehigh Valley, it serves as a catalyst for other students that such an award is attainable," Capofari said.