In this special edition of Scholarship News, we present an interview with one of the first military dependents to receive a ThanksUSA scholarship, Shadie Andraos. The oldest of six children, Shadie has served as a role model and mentor not only to his younger siblings, but also to fellow students and colleagues.
He has remained a dear friend and supporter of ThanksUSA and says, "As I look to my youngest sisters in high school, it is clear that ThanksUSA's mission is as important as ever. For Gabie, Missie, and all military spouses and dependents, affording a college education will continue to be a challenge. I hope that ThanksUSA will continue to receive the support it needs to help this incredible community of people."
Shadie, in 2006, you were awarded a $5,000 ThanksUSA scholarship. How did this affect your course of studies?
I received the ThanksUSA scholarship about a year into my studies at Cleveland State University. At the time I was a working student; I had struggled to maintain my grades while working nights as a bank teller. I remember a relative asking why I was having such a hard time with classwork after doing so well in high school. I felt there simply were not enough hours in the day to commute, work, and study, let alone socialize and try to build relationships.
A little support goes a long way towards easing the burden, not just on my finances but also from a psychological perspective. When I received the scholarship, I felt that there were people invested in my success and that this was a chance to excel in my studies. I refocused my efforts in class, took on leadership roles on campus, and built the skills necessary to secure top internship offers.
You have certainly proven yourself since 2006! We’ve followed your success Cleveland State to Wall Street to graduate school. Tell us about your current goals.
I am currently in graduate school pursuing my MBA at UC Berkeley. I love learning, and having spent a semester here, I know this is exactly where I should be at this point in life. While working for five years, I learned a lot about a very specific industry. Coming back to school has given me the opportunity to expand my horizons while meeting people with similar visions about changing the world around us. It is a privilege to be in this environment and I look forward to applying the lessons learned when I return to the corporate world.
Over the years, you’ve represented ThanksUSA scholarship recipients at several of our outreach events. This has also given you the opportunity to meet fellow ThanksUSA scholars. What have you learned from other ThanksUSA students?
We have a pretty diverse community, filled with really interesting and motivated people. It is always exciting to read spotlights of new scholarship recipients and the goals they are able to pursue as a result of ThanksUSA’s support.
Speaking of yourself and fellow ThanksUSA scholars, what do you hope the public understands about military families?
Interestingly enough, I have classmates who were also military dependents and who also grew up on bases in Asia and the Pacific. In talking about our experiences, one classmate shared that military dependents are among the most "understudied" group in American society. It was a realization I could grasp; ask most dependents where they grew up and the struggle becomes evident. Ours is a story that is often untold and rarely understood. When a father, mother, brother or sister is deployed, we are always along for the emotional ride.
What have been your guiding lights?
A benefit of growing up on military bases has been the trickle down of values; I would bet most dependents have a deep understanding and appreciation of community and of integrity. Growing up, those were probably the two most prominent characteristics I witnessed in all the service members and families who were a part of my life.
How do you feel about the gift of education and what advice do you have for others?
I harbor no doubt about the value of education -- education is a game changer and for some, it can be life changing. With the gift of hindsight, I think I would have taken even harder classes and broader topics. That said, I’m fortunate to have a chance to return to graduate school, which says a lot. Thousands of students each year would forgo a salary to better themselves through this process. With that in mind, make the best of your college years, and challenge yourself in the process.
You’re a big proponent of "paying it forward." Tell us about your philosophy.
I have taken two different approaches towards paying it forward. The first has been focused on education, particularly during high school right up until college. For the past several years, I’ve volunteered with organizations including Junior Achievement, Beginning with Children Foundation, and YEAH (Young Entrepreneurs at Haas). I’ve been a mentor and course instructor for business and financial literacy. My hope has always been to help equip students with the skills I would have wanted to know about early in life.
Separately, I have been fortunate to work for companies that share the pay it forward spirit. At my prior companies, I was able to host fundraising events and receive a matching contribution for ThanksUSA. It is important to contribute where you can, and for me this means both time and resources.
ThanksUSA is able to accomplish our mission because so many Americans want to "Thank" our military families. What is your message to all those who appreciate your family's service?
I am eternally grateful, not only for the scholarship and community support but for the acknowledgement of the sacrifice and struggle experienced by military dependents. The gratitude we receive as family members is part of what creates a positive environment for future military participation and only serves to strengthen our community and commitment.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
That is a tough question. What is more interesting is to reflect on what has happened in the 10 years since high school. At 18, life seemed full of obstacles, with college at the forefront. The things that helped me to succeed in the past are what I hope will guide me in the future -- friends, family and mentors. Along the way, I hope to help in defining their paths and achieving their goals in life, whether it is college admission or getting that first job. Regardless of where I am in 10 years, I think there is tremendous opportunity to continue paying it forward every step of the way.