ARLINGTON, Va. (May 25, 2015) -- Columbia Southern Education Group awarded its first "Living Legacy" scholarship to a gold star sister, Stephanie Todd, at the Rolling Thunder XXVIII "Ride for Freedom" event in the Pentagon north parking lot earlier this week.
Stephanie is the surviving sister of Sgt. 1st Class David James Todd, Jr., who was killed in action on Aug. 20, 2008, in Bala Morghab, Afghanistan.
The scholarship's purpose is to empower surviving military family members to achieve their academic goals and aspirations.
"Columbia Southern Education Group believes it is our civic responsibility to continue to support the families of the fallen," said Chantell Cooley, senior vice president for CSEG.
"We believe this scholarship is the momentum they need to improve their quality of life, be an example for their family members and enhance their self-purpose."
In the application essay, Stephanie had to demonstrate how receiving the scholarship would honor her brother.
"This scholarship is propelling me to pursue a dream that I had five years ago," she said during her acceptance speech. "I went to Lambeau Field and saw how they memorialized the football players. I wondered why we can't do the same for Soldiers?"
Stephanie will study business at Waldorf College, one of the educational group's universities. She aspires to start a non-profit organization to honor fallen Soldiers like her brother.
"I need a business degree to learn how to build business plans and understand financials and operations," she added.
Stephanie currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, and will complete her studies at home via an online degree program.
"I think it's phenomenal that, through our relationship with CSEG, a surviving sibling was able to receive a scholarship like this," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Hatfield from the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
In the mean time, Todd is making a difference in the local community for military survivors. An active runner, Todd is helping the Survivor Outreach Services office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, host a 5K Walk/Run for the Fallen Heroes event on May 30.
"I developed race bibs to designate those who are gold star families and those who are running in remembrance of a friend or colleague," she said.
As the scholarship presentation came to a close, Todd looked at the Rolling Thunder crowd as she heard motorcycles revving in the background.
"My brother [David] loved motorcycles," she said. "This moment had his name written all over it."