The Raytheon-SVA Scholarship allowed Bellanca to graduate on time and successfully transition into a career with Rockwell Collins.
“I was dead set on getting that scholarship.”
Derek Bellanca, U.S. Army veteran and University of Texas at Dallas alumnus, was a recipient of a scholarship from SVA and Raytheon (now Raytheon Technologies) in 2017. He used the scholarship to complete the final semester of his bachelor’s degree. Bellanca said, “The Raytheon-SVA scholarship was just the perfect amount of money to pay for my last semester of classes.”
Student Veterans of America has partnered with Raytheon Technologies since 2013 to provide scholarships to student veterans attending school full-time. These $10,000 scholarships have been pivotal in the lives of many student veterans, including Bellanca.
Speaking to Bellanca, he told us about his academic journey and how the scholarship changed his life. Prior to enlisting in the Army, he was attending college full-time, however, his reason for joining the military was to escape boredom and find adventure. Bellanca served 5 years with the 3rd I.D., Third Infantry Division out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
After separating in 2013, he returned to school for criminal justice. However, his journey took a turn when he decided to take up an offer to do another tour in Baghdad.
It wasn’t until after consulting with his wife about their future did Bellanca choose to pivot his degree path to something that always interested him—software engineering. After returning from Baghdad in 2015, he chose to attend UT Dallas to pursue a STEM degree in computer software engineering.
Two-and-a-half years into his degree program, Bellanca ran out of his GI Bill education benefit, but he still had five classes left to complete his degree, which equaled roughly $10,000.
Bellanca recalls searching for a way to pay for his last semester. “I was doing everything I could to come up with an idea to pay for my last semester,” Bellanca said. He even considered joining the Air Force Reserves.
During his search, Bellanca learned about the Raytheon-SVA scholarship through the veterans affairs office at UT Dallas. The military veterans center at UT Dallas frequently sent helpful emails, but this one helped change his life.
Bellanca, making himself competitive for the application process, applied for the scholarship and was selected as a recipient. During his academic tenure, Bellanca maintained excellent grades and built his professional network.. “My competitive edge was the hard work,” Bellanca said. “I was dead set on getting that scholarship.”
For Bellanca the scholarship proved to be a life-saver and life-changer. “The Raytheon-SVA scholarship helped me immensely,” Bellanca said. “That was a huge, huge weight off my back.”
The Raytheon-SVA Scholarship allowed Bellanca to graduate on time and successfully transition into a career with Rockwell Collins. He started on the company’s software team while still in school as an intern and, upon graduating, he was offered a full-time job—a job he believes would not have been offered had he not graduated on time.
Bellanca hopes that his journey can help others believe in themselves and chase their life goals. He mentors fellow veterans through the Veterati platform. “It’s cool to be a little bit of an example, to be like ‘you can do it, too’” Bellanca said. “No dream is too big; you can take long shots and you’d be surprised how often a long shot will pay off if you do the hard work, if you make yourself undeniable.”
Written by Kameron Smith.