Oly grad awarded Stennis scholarship

Heather Nelson, recipient of the $2,500 USS John C. Stennis family scholarship, will attend Seattle University as a biochemistry major in the fall. She is pursuing a degree in medicine.  - Courtesy photo
Heather Nelson, recipient of the $2,500 USS John C. Stennis family scholarship, will attend Seattle University as a biochemistry major in the fall. She is pursuing a degree in medicine.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Heather Nelson was amazed and excited when she was selected as one of five winners of the USS John C. Stennis Family Scholarship, an award that will pay $2,500 toward her college tuition this year.

“When I got the news I won, it was pretty exciting,” she said with a laugh. “Getting this (scholarship) was like, ‘Wow,’ and being one of five selected was pretty cool.”

Nelson said she was encouraged by her father, Todd Nelson, to apply. Todd Nelson served on the USS Stennis from 2004 to 2007 as a lieutenant in the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department.

A recent graduate of Olympic High School, Nelson was involved in everything from Advanced Placement (AP) courses to captain of the varsity swim team. Recipient of both Most Valuable Player and Coach’s Sportsmanship awards, Nelson also was a member of the National Honor Society, Who’s Who Among American High School Students and received departmental science and English awards.

“I was really involved in (swim team) and I like the feeling that I could really make a difference with the team,” Nelson said. “It motivated me to go to a service university.”

Nelson said she always enjoyed the challenge that AP courses brought to her schedule, but she didn’t entirely find her fit until she entered biology and chemistry.

Preparing to attend Seattle University this year, Nelson said she is ready.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” she added. “Orientation was just a week ago and it also made me feel ready.”

Nelson added that she plans to study medicine while obtaining a degree in biochemistry.

“I chose medicine because I feel if I’m a doctor, I can make a difference saving people’s lives,” Nelson said. “I think that would really be the career for me, helping people using my love of science.”

The USS John C. Stennis Family Scholarship is awarded on an annual basis to students planning to dedicate themselves to a life of public service.

“We are thrilled to award the scholarship to promising students like Heather,” said Rex Buffington, executive director of the Stennis Center for Public Service in a news release. “By supporting the next generation of public servants, we pay tribute to Senator Stennis and his illuminating example of leadership. We also see this as an opportunity to express appreciation to children and spouses of USS Stennis crewmembers who provide vital support to those who serve in uniform.”

The USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier holds a crew of approximately 5,000 and its aircraft are used to conduct strikes, support land battles, protect the Strike Group or other friendly shipping and implement sea or air blockades. John Stennis, whom the aircraft carrier and Center for Public Service were named after, served in the United States Senate for almost 42 years, the sixth longest tenure in history of the nation.

The scholarship is designed for students who are committed to upholding the senator’s principles of integrity, courage, commitment to duty and hard work.

“I’m excited,” Nelson added. “I’m ready for this new chapter of my life.”

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