NPC Friends & Family awards inaugural U.S. Military Veterans Scholarship

Retired SSG Kevin Widner with a recent catch. He is the local program lead for Project Healing Waters, a veteran’s outreach program that teaches adaptive fly fishing in the White Mountain area.

Retired SSG. Kevin Widner, of Nutrioso, is the first recipient of the NPC Friends and Family U.S. Military Veterans Scholarship.

He will receive the $500 award in the spring 2018 semester.

Widner plans to use the scholarship to help defray his travel costs for commuting from his home in Nutrioso to classes at Northland Pioneer College’s Springerville-Eager Center and White Mountain Campus in Show Low, which total about 360 miles each week.

Widner is pursuing an Associate of Science degree from NPC with plans to attend Northern Arizona University, where he will seek a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, with certification in wildlife management.

Widner’s story and goals are inspirational. As he wrote in his scholarship essay, there are two factors that drive his motivation to return to college. First, he sought to prove himself able to do the mental work, after suffering a mild traumatic brain injury in combat in 2007, resulting in his medical retirement.

“Before I was injured I was able to quickly pick up and retain information, often getting grades in the ‘A’ range with little or no effort or studying on my part,” Widner said. “After the injury, I have to read topics two or three times to understand them, and even then key words and terminology often fail to be retained.”

Widner credits improvement with processing and short-term memory issues to years of rehabilitation. He is now enrolled full-time at NPC, confident he can meet the mental and physical challenges required for passing his classes.

The second factor Widner cites for attending college is to prepare himself to do “something productive, other than early retirement, to do with my time.”

To that end, he has volunteered with and assisted several different veteran’s outreach programs that both helped him toward his own recovery while helping his fellow veterans with their recovery and mental health.

Widner’s goal of ultimately earning a bachelor’s in biological sciences is driven by a desire to expand his volunteer work in the wildlife management field, an aspiration that came about through his role as the local program lead for Project Healing Waters, www.projecthealingwaters.org, a veteran’s outreach program that teaches adaptive fly fishing in the White Mountain area.

The NPC Friends and Family U.S. Military Veterans Scholarship was made possible through funds raised at its inaugural disc golf tournament last August at the Four Seasons Disc Golf Course in Snowflake.

Tournament sponsors included SEE4Vets, http://see4vets.org, a Phoenix-based non-profit that assists veterans with educational and career goals. A 2015 grant from SEE4Vets funded NPC’s Veterans’ Center at the White Mountain Campus.

To learn more about the NPC Friends and Family U.S. Military Veterans Scholarship, visit www.npc.edu/scholarships. To donate to the scholarship and assist an inspiring vet like Widner with educational goals, contact Betsyann Wilson, executive director of NPC Friends and Family, at betsy.wilson@npc.edu or 928-6245; or visit www.npcfriendsfamily.org and click the “Donate” button.

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