Tillman Military Scholars

2017 Tillman Scholars

Leilani Attilio

Leilani A

Service to the community is the driving force in Leilani’s career. As a child she remembers watching her mom meet patients each morning for their daily dialysis. Her mother’s compassion and commitment to service inspired Leilani to enroll in nursing school. While an Army ROTC cadet, September 11th occurred and Leilani was committed to preserving the hope and security that is the foundation of the United States. This also included protecting the dreams of her parents who emigrated from the Philippines. Leilani served in the military to show gratitude for the country and people who welcomed and supported her parents. As an Army Nurse Corp officer, Leilani was a critical care nurse and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After leaving the military, Leilani became a public health nurse and found her passion working with underserved communities on drug policy. But Leilani felt a call back to the clinical world when she recognized the stigma people with drug addiction face in healthcare. Leilani enrolled in George Washington University’s Family Nurse Practitioner program to become a primary care provider. Her goal is to provide healthcare for marginalized communities and to leverage her position as a family nurse practitioner to advocate for drug policies directly impacting her patients.  She hopes to train new nurses to hone their clinical skills and educate them on policy and advocacy so they may become change agents. By working in drug policy, clinical care, and education, she aims to bring positive, sustainable

changes on how we deliver healthcare.




Aaron Banas


With a strong sense of responsibility and empathy for others, Aaron enlisted as Navy Corpsman. During his service, he found meaning through working with others who had lost hope. He learned that saving a life did not just mean stopping the bleeding or keeping an airway open; it also meant helping others find meaning and that they were not alone in their suffering.

After his enlistment, Aaron felt lost. Knowing that he needed change, he set out on a six-month journey into the wilderness. Through his journey, he found a way to live each day with mindfulness and appreciation and discovered that he could help others find their own path to recovery. He accomplished this by coordinating retreats for combat veterans. During the retreats, he shared the story of how Odysseus went to war then became lost finding his way home. Aaron found that Veterans returning from war may be physically home, but mentally they are still searching. The responsibility of bringing everyone home rests not only on the veteran and the mental health provider, but also on their communities. Aaron is seeking his doctoral degree in clinical psychology so that he may better understand the nature of suffering and pathways to healing.

Aaron plans to create a collaborative community in which psychotherapy is normalized, members of the community are educated about helping veterans, and transition services address the needs of returning veterans. Aaron believes that building resilience with returning veterans will equate to a more resilient and healthy community.




Jessica Blake


As she has followed her husband’s Army career, Jessica has worked as a civilian for the military as well as a healthcare administrator for the Department of the Army. For three years, she served as a physical therapy technician in an Army health clinic and was honored to play a small role in the recovery of injured soldiers. Her patients’ drive, determination, positivity and commitment to service of others, sometimes after severe injury or a long road with chronic conditions, inspired her. Over time, she learned about many aspects of coping and recovery through her patients, and she discovered a passion for giving back through physical therapy.

With the support and encouragement of her husband and family, Jessica is pursuing her goal to support the military community and underserved communities as an Orthopedic Physical Therapist. Through her program, she has had the opportunity to work not only in military settings, but also with special needs childrens’ adaptive sports groups and with underserved populations in Washington, D.C. area as well as internationally. As a physical therapist, she hopes to work with many of these populations, guiding her patients through challenges, celebrating their successes in recovery, and inspiring them to achieve goals that may seem unreachable.



2016 Tillman Scholars

Adam Popp

Yearning to be part of something bigger than himself and walk a path of purpose and service that would test every facet of his being, Adam entered the United States Air Force in 1997, becoming motivated and inspired everyday. The most important lessons Adam learned during his 12 years in the service came during his recovery at Walter Reed after losing his leg to an IED in Afghanistan. During his 18-month recovery, Adam had the opportunity to learn from others recovering from a wide range of injuries and disabilities, witnessing first-hand the ways in which individuals handle the process of healing. Most importantly, Adam learned how important mentors, healthcare providers, and support networks are to a successful recovery. By the end of his stay, Adam had made the pledge to himself that he would serve to empower veterans in every way possible.

Having had the privilege of spending 19 years working within the military community, including the most recent nine years working with men and women battling both invisible and visible injuries, Adam’s main focus now is to pursue a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from George Washington University. This program will enable him to become a Rehabilitation Counselor focused on veterans with disabilities, with the goal of working with military or private hospitals, the VA, non-profits, or other treatment centers. Adam knows when he combines his hard-won experience with a formal education, he will be even better equipped to assist others in overcoming their challenges, accomplishing their goals, and maximizing their potential.


2014 Tillman Military Scholars

Tricia Robinson

Katherine Steele

Tricia Robinson

After emigrating, at age fourteen, to the Unites States from Jamaica, I completed my high school education in New Jersey.  I pursued my undergraduate education at Franklin and Marshall College (F&M), where I completed a Special Studies major titled ‘The Sociological Approaches to Cultural History.’  As both a high school and college student, I was quite involved in a variety of activities and sports, such as playing varsity tennis, running track and field, and writing for the college reporter.  In addition, I always embraced opportunities where I could volunteer.  Community service has always been a part of my life and I especially relished opportunities where I could serve alongside friends.  For example, during college I returned home to Jamaica to serve with a number of friends from my former high school, Immaculate Conception, at a camp called Moorlands, which was dedicated to reaching middle and high school students.  Serving has led to many opportunities, where I have been able to build life long friendships with others because I have crossed paths with people who are passionate about caring for others.

My passion to serve and have an impact on others culminated in my decision to pursue a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary after graduating from F&M.  Once I completed my masters, I worked in a few different settings as both a family and individual therapist.  It was in 2002, while visiting a college friend in Hawaii, that I felt the call to serve in the U.S. Army.  Luckily, I had the great opportunity to involve friends who had previously served in the military to be a part of my decision-making process.  My prior involvement in ROTC during my senior year in high school also helped give me a snapshot of the camaraderie that I was soon to find while serving in the U.S. Army. 

During my seven year in the military, I have encountered many Soldiers who took their commitment to serve seriously.  To decide to serve during a time of war is not something many take lightly at all.  Regardless of their motivations to join the military, those who served always desired to grow both professionally and personally.  I am honored to have met some great leaders along the way.  As I embark on pursuing a different direction in my career path, I hope to inspire and give back to the military community and those who support them.


Katherine Steele

The life I have led the last 15 years as a working military spouse has not hindered me, but rather aided my growth as a teacher and been a compass for my future travels as a professional educator. Every campus that I have had the privilege to work on has helped me become a better teacher, allowed me to touch more students, and given me opportunities to see what does and does not work in creating successful schools. Each move, initial interview and recertification exam has given me a clear vision of where I want to travel next.

I don’t think my goals would have been as clearly delineated if I had not been moving my family every few years. Perhaps I would have settled into a school, in the same state, with the same friends and been happy in that life. However, I have settled and re-settled in state after state and that has made me a competent and driven teacher that strives to impact all corners of our country with my teaching.

The road map of my life has taken me from Seattle Pacific University where I earned my undergrad degree in Education, to the University of California San Diego where I received a Reading Specialist Certification and now has led me to George Washington University. I have a unique vision for a system of charter schools located near active duty military bases specifically engineered to meet the unique requirements of military dependents. My life experience as a military spouse and mother, professional qualifications as a teacher in K-12 school systems across 8 states, and professional experience securing a DODEA grant partnering a technology firm with a local  charter school created this vision for the future. This vision, empowered by a degree in Administration and Leadership from George Washington University, will afford me the qualification required to design and create a replicable, standardized, and quality education system for military families. 

The Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and spouses financially which is incredible, but it does far more than just fund educational dreams, it connects Scholars to a community of learners that have a desire to serve others. As a Tillman Scholar I will now be surrounded by a cadre of individuals that have a sense of vocation coupled with a commitment to positive change through hard work and dedication. I admire Pat's call to action, I remember 9-11 and watching my own military spouse go to work that day and wondering what the future held. The legacy of Pat that is the heart of this foundation is one of giving back. As a military spouse we serve in such a different capacity than our service members, and like Pat's spouse Marie, we are able to now reach our potential as leaders and take our own spirit of service and share it with others.