FORT KNOX, Ky. - Military children are adept at adapting to and thriving in new environments. Many view the challenges associated with this frequent change an opportunity to enrich their lives.
Larissa Heslop, daughter of Lt. Col. Larry W. Heslop, G33 chief of operations, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, achieved much success in her studies and as a soccer athlete while attending Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to these achievements, she also volunteers helping others.
Heslop said that she was exposed to diverse groups of people and different ways of thinking because of frequent moves when she was younger. Her aspirations for international public service are driven in part by her upbringing as a military child.
She attended seven different schools by the 12th grade. “When I moved to different schools, I did not try to change myself to fit in; I remained true to myself,” she said. “Staying true to myself contributes to my confidence in my ability to achieve my goals and follow my own path.”
“The advice I would give to other military children is to stay true to yourself and what you love,” she stressed. “From the military lifestyle, you will be exposed to many different cultures and people. While it is important to learn from every person and situation, it is also important to stay grounded in your own values.”
Heslop graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 grade point average in May 2020 from EKU. She is now pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration. She is preparing for a career in public service and hopes to lead humanitarian aid and relief efforts abroad with an international non-profit organization or government agency.
During high school she visited her father, Lt. Col. Heslop in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. She traveled internationally within the Central Command area of responsibility as part of her undergraduate studies in Egypt, and also studied in England, Israel, and Brazil.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Heslop from volunteering during her summer break. She delivered meals to the elderly with Warm Blessings Inc., and also read books virtually to hospitalized children as a volunteer with the organization Happy Hope Factory.
Both an active leader on and off the field, Heslop has received numerous awards recognizing her leadership, outstanding academic performance and community service.
Heslop was named the 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year for women's soccer by the publication Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. She also received the Athletic Directors Leadership Award - 2020 Colonels’ Choice Awards. She was named an academic All-American in 2019 and was a speaker at the 2018 Annual EKU Championing Women's Athletics Luncheon.
Heslop was also recognized with Play of the Year in the 2017 Colonels' Choice Awards, for her game wining penalty shootout goal in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinals.
As one of the most accomplished athletes in EKU soccer history, Heslop was also nominated for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Woman of the Year award for 2020, representing EKU and the OVC. She was one of only two athletes selected in the initial division one cut from the OVC.
Heslop continues to be recognized at the University of Kansas. She was recently awarded a Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award as she pursues her master’s degree. “My advisor nominated me for the award for graduate students at UK who demonstrate promise for a potential career in international service,” she shared.
“Separate from the Truman Award, I will be interning this summer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East Bureau,” she said. “USAID is an organization I have been wanting to intern with because I could see myself working there in the future as a Foreign Service officer,” she said.
Lt. Col. Heslop said, “We are very proud of Larissa’s hard work and accomplishments, and hope that she may be an encouragement for other military children to make the most of the unique opportunities within our community.”
Larissa shared a famous quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, "The only thing constant in life is change." She said, “Military children learn from an early age how to adapt to change since it is more constant and frequent in our lives. Many people do not learn to deal with big changes until later in life. I would encourage other military children to embrace this skillset. Life is easier when you learn to trust that change can work for your benefit and that each season of life can bring new growth.”