Pillars of Strength Program logo

The Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program honors the exceptional sacrifices of the family and non-family volunteer caregivers of our nation's injured servicemembers. Because this extraordinary commitment often causes caregivers to delay their personal pursuits, the fund was established to assist them in achieving their educational goals. The Pillars of Strength program is supported and managed by the Yellow Ribbon Fund and The Blewitt Foundation, each serving the severely wounded and their families, in association with UMUC, a global provider of higher education to our nation’s military since 1947.

The program kicked off in April 2013 with the awarding of three UMUC scholarships to dedicated caregivers, and in April 2015, two more individuals were recognized for their service to injured family members. In June 2016, five additional caregivers were awarded scholarships. Read the inspiring stories of  Emily Ball, Danielle Kelly, and Beverly Poyer from 2013 and Vanessa Engelhardt and Michelle Yi from 2015; and Jessica Brewer, Valerie Gray, Sandralee Jensen, Marli Jakubisin, and Terri Jo Yarnell from 2016.

See how the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program can help create better futures for these deserving families.

 

How You Can Help

Your gift to the Pillars of Strength Scholarship program can help make a positive impact in the lives of family members and friends who serve our country by serving their military loved ones. Up to five scholarships—covering full tuition, fees, and books—will be awarded each academic year to eligible candidates. Consider making a gift today.

Watch More Videos

Video of Sandralee Jensen's Speech

Scholarship recipient Sandralee Jensen shares her story and advises other caregivers who want to pursue their education to "take a step or leap of faith, and trust that there are going to be others that will be there to help you."

Jessica Brewer video

Jessica Brewer knew that a "brick and mortar school wouldn't have been an option" and applied for the Pillars of Strength scholarship just hours before the deadline.

Valerie Gray video

Valerie Gray was hesitant at first to apply for the scholarship. "It's hard to think about yourself when your family is going through hardships. You always put others before yourself. Sometimes you have to put yourself first so that you can take better care of your family."

Terri Jo Yarnell video

Terri Jo Yarnell says the Pillars of Strength scholarship gives her the opportunity to show her children that "you can always go back and change and follow your dream."

Sandralee and Chris Jensen video

Sandralee Jensen, a stay-at-home mom for 28 years, was terrified of going back to school and deleted the scholarship application three times. Husband Chris Jensen encouraged her to apply. "She has given her life to the military, she's given her life to other soldiers, she's given her life to her children, and she's certainly given her life to me."

Vanessa Engelhardt video

Scholarship winner Vanessa Engelhardt shares her story "to help other caregivers and wounded veterans know there is hope for a different tomorrow."

Michelle Yi video

Michelle Yi says the Pillars of Strength scholarship "gives me hope and strength for the future."

Kimberly Dozier video

CNN's Kimberly Dozier, who was herself severely injured covering the war in Iraq in 2006, salutes volunteer caregivers. "By what they do every day, they teach us how to be better Americans and better people."

Vanessa and Eric Engelhardt video

Vanessa Engelhardt says the Pillars of Strength scholarship gives her a "huge opportunity." Her husband Eric Engelhardt agrees, "It's her time—she's earned it."

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Photo Gallery: Supporting Volunteer Caregivers of Injured Service Members


Caregivers Awarded Pillars of Strength Scholarships

On June 8, 2016, five caregivers—Jessica Brewer, Valerie Gray, Sandralee Jensen, Maril Jakubisin, and Terri Jo Yarnell—were awarded Pillars of Strength Scholarships in a special ceremony at UMUC headquarters in Adelphi. (L to R): Jessica Brewer; Richard F. Blewitt, president of the Blewitt Foundation; Sandralee Jensen; Javier Miyares, UMUC president; Terri Jo Yarnell; Dave Tarantino, Chairman of the Board, Yellow Ribbon Fund; and Valerie Gray. View more photos.

2015 Pillars of Strength Recipients

On April 25, 2015, two more caregivers—Vanessa Engelhardt and Michelle Li—were honored at a special ceremony at the National Press Club and awarded Pillars of Strength Scholarships. (L to R): Mark Robbins, executive director of the Yellow Ribbon Fund; Vanessa Engelhardt, scholarship recipient; Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst and keynote speaker; Michelle Yi, scholarship recipient; Javier Miyares; and Richard F. Blewitt. View more photos.

2013 Pillars of Strength Recipients

Meet the original three recipients of the Pillars of Strength Scholarship and the soldiers they care for: (L to R) Jessie Fletcher, Emily Ball, Beverly Poyer, Danielle Kelly, and Taylor Morris. Poyer's daughter, Brianna, is front and center. View more photos.