Teens from active-duty military families have until Dec. 1 to apply for the Orion Military Scholarship Fund.
Orion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “promoting uninterrupted educational opportunities for eligible children of active component military families, according to its website, was founded in 2019 by two military couples. Eric and Krista Peterson were both Army brats with boarding school leadership and teaching positions. Ret. Navy Capt. Francis Molinari and his wife Lisa, meanwhile, parented daughters who attended the elite St. George’s School in Rhode Island. Both couples saw the value in military children getting opportunities to attend boarding schools for four solid years instead of continually PCS’ing with their families.
According to the DOD Education Activity, children of active-duty military parents move three times more than civilian kids while changing schools up to nine times before high school graduation. The inconsistency takes a mental, educational, emotional, and even athletic toll. That’s where Orion steps in, providing ways for students to stay at one school from freshman year to commencement, no matter where their family relocates.
Orion announced its first scholarship class of six in June. Its current application season for its sophomore round closes Dec. 1. The organization partners with 12 boarding schools around the nation, all of whom desire the diversity of experience military teenagers bring.
“We talk a lot about military kids being resilient, but a lot of them would benefit from a consistent, uninterrupted high school experience when making those social connections outside their family becomes so important,” said Lisa Molinari. “We want to give our teenagers the most stable adolescent high school experience we can to set them up to one day become our leaders.”
The six Orion scholarships handed out thus far have been partial, with parents contributing between $2,500 and $10,000 a year in tuition fees for schools that typically cost $70,000 annually. The goal, however, is for Orion to someday provide full scholarships to winners. That entails plenty of fundraising via corporate sponsorships, grant funding and private donations for the Rhode Island and Delaware-based charity.
It’s worth it, Molinari said, especially when you hear the stories of Orion recipients.
“The Orion Military Scholarship has had an amazing impact on my life. What a blessing that came my way,” said Jack B., an Army kid who has moved seven times while attending six schools. “It has helped me live a stationary life where I can pursue what I love most, while not having to worry about moving around, school to school, state to state.”
Orion, named after the constellation that visibly shines for nine months a year, is currently looking for active-duty military kids of any branch from grades 8 to no later than juniors. The process to become an Orion scholar begins with an application, transcripts, and letters of recommendation from principals and teachers. From there, Orion team members will schedule an online interview. If chosen, the recipient will begin at one of the dozen partner schools in the fall of 2022.
Molinari and Orion’s three other volunteers met with the “pioneer class” over Zoom in May. The teenagers’ locations stretched from Hawaii to Cuba, but all felt the gravitas of being the first ones chosen. All six, Molinari said, are now thriving in their new schools.
“It was so emotional for us, and Krista began to cry,” Molinari said. “That first cohort is shining proof that this idea of scholarships for military kids to premiere boarding schools really works. It’s something they all completely deserve.”
Visit Orion Military Scholarship Fund to get more information on the application process.