August 2019 Scholarship Recipients

August 12, 2019
Michael Muniz

Michael Muniz (Victoria, TX) knew from the time he was 13 years old that he wanted to join the Marine Corps.  In 2003, after graduating from high school, he enlisted as a Mortarmen and went on to serve for eight years and experienced several deployments – two to Iraq, and one to Afghanistan.  “After going to Afghanistan, I knew my body couldn’t handle another deployment.”  Upon returning home to Texas, Michael wasn’t sure what his next step would be, so he took a job at an oil field and started taking classes in Accounting through Liberty University.  “I thought my bachelors would open a lot of doors, but everywhere I went I had no accounting experience – just the Marine Corps and the oil field.  How do you get the experience without someone giving you a shot?”  Eventually, Michael was approached by a representative with the Knight of Columbus, and he’s been working with them ever since.  Last year, Michael wrote the most applications out of any other Knights of Columbus agent in Texas.  “You get out of it what you put into it,” Michael says.  In an effort to expand his expertise, Michael wants to start learning and developing himself.  “I want to get as much as I can behind my name - I don’t think you can ever stop learning.”  To that end, he’s undertaking the Financial Services Certified Professional® program, which will equip him with the vital survival skills to make this entry into financial services as successful as possible.  We’re proud of Michael’s service and accomplishments and we wish him the best with his education!  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Fred and Sue Sievert in memory of  Jerome F Smolar (WWI) and Jerome F Smolar, Jr. (WWII) and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

Leland Hart

Leland Hart (Bridgeport, MI) is an Army National Guard Captain who enlisted in as a junior in high school.  After his basic and advanced infantry training, Leland entered the ROTC program at The Citadel in South Carolina.  Upon his graduation, he commissioned as an Army National Guard 2nd Lieutenant and intelligence officer. 

In his civilian life, Leland has been working in insurance for the past few years.  He had been at his current employer, Judd Insurance, for a year when he received surprise deployment orders.  “I received a phone call on a Wednesday and I was in a uniform on Saturday training for deployment,” Leland said.  “Everyone else on this deployment had two year’s notice but someone had to back out at the last minute.  They found me and snagged me – I had three days’ notice before leaving for pre-training.”  Leland then spent 11 months in Kuwait as Brigade Intelligence Officer, providing logistics throughout Central Command.  “Then I got done with that, and came back home.” Leland said. 

He’s been working for Judd Insurance ever since and is looking to expand his education.  He’ll be completing the Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) designation, which will provide him with the education he’ll need to serve his clients the best.  “The protection of financial services,” Leland explains, is his motivation.  “By giving people information on how they can protect themselves and then helping them do it, that’s incredibly rewarding for me.  It’s been refreshing to say the words, ‘You’re covered!’”  We’re proud of what Leland has accomplished and wish him the best in his CLU!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Jack Turner and Associates, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

Roodmy Cesar

Roodmy Cesar (Ronkonkoma, NY) was working in a brokerage company when he enlisted the Army at 29 years old.  “I thought, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.”  This decision would be one of Roodmy’s better ones.  “It was the best experience of my life,” he says.  “Any quality about myself that I liked, it magnified it by ten.  I feel like it’s shaped me to be a much better person with a lot more potential.”  During his four-year enlistment, Roodmy was stationed in Washington State, and did a twelve month tour to Kuwait and Afghanistan.  Upon his return, he joined the reserves and served for another year.  After transitioning to civilian life, Roodmy returned to New York and got a job at New York Life, where he stayed for the next five years. 

Now, Roodmy is with National Life Group and he’s looking to expand his expertise.  “I want to be more proficient, more knowledgeable, and more refined,” he says.  To take himself to the next level, Roodmy will be completing the Masters of Science in Financial Services (MSFS), which will provide him with a rigorous financial services education.  “I am driven by the desire to help people,” he says.  We were so impressed by Roodmy and we’re thrilled to help him continue on his mission.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of The Henry N. Farmer Education Fund and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

Debora Jefferson

Debora Jefferson (Columbus, GA) spent four years in the Air Force and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant before transitioning to the Reserves.  She was given the opportunity to manage the unit’s Air Force Aid Society office, providing emergency financial assistance to service members in need.  “In this role, I was exposed to the financial situation that a lot of our service members are facing,” Debora says.  Her passion has been in reaching young service members early, and impressing upon them the importance of saving early and learning how to budget. “Watching them realize how much money they can have in their retirement got them excited – that’s been my motivation.” On the other end of the spectrum, Debora is also providing transition assistance for retiring service members. “That’s been eye opening as well,” she says.  Debora has found her new career and wants to learn as much as possible.  To that end, she’ll be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, which will expand her skillset and offerings to her clients. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” Debora says.  “If you love what you’re doing you don’t work a day of your life.”  We’re so thrilled to assist Debora in her career and we thank her for her service.  Congratulations! 

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Saybrus and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

Jaime Frias

Jaime Frias (Edmond, OK) came to the United States from Ecuador when he was 10 years old.  He enlisted in the Army in 1977 and went on to serve for seven years as a fuel tanker operator for the 15th Infantry division.  “I love the service,” Jaime says. “I love the discipline, I like the training, I had a great time.” 

Upon his separation from the Army, Jaime attended seminary and worked as minister and missionary for a few years.  He started his insurance career in 1995 and has been working in the same field ever since.  “Financial services, estate planning – I’ve always wanted to study more,” Jaime says.  “If there is a way that I can continue studying, why not?”  Jaime will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® program, which will give him the skills and knowledge to better serve his clients.  “I believe in the Bible,” Jaime says.  “And one of the things the Bible teaches us is to ‘do unto others’.  I give of myself to people.  I like to educate people before they make a decision that will affect them in the years to come.”  We’re so happy to help Jaime continue serving others, and we wish him the best in his studies!  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Prudential and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Jason Velencia

Jason Velencia (Hummelstown, PA) spent four years in the Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Corporal before transitioning from Active Duty.  Jason grew up in a suburb outside of Baltimore watching lacrosse games at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  “I saw military life from that light and I wanted to be a part of that,” he says.  “In 5thgrade, I gave a speech about how I’d graduate from high school and join the Marine Corps.” Seven years later, Jason did just that – signing up for the Marine Corps infantry the day he was age eligible.  Jason served the majority of his time in North Carolina, but he was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months, which was understandably formative for him.  “One of the big things I took away from that time: there’s such a diverse background of people in the military.  Race, religion, economic backgrounds, from all over the country – there’s something to learn from everyone in this world, and I’ve tried to carry that with me outside of life in the military.”  Now, in his civilian life, Jason is a financial professional with LPL and he loves what he does – it seems like a perfect fit for him. In order to take his career to the next level, Jason wants to complete the Chartered Financial Consultant® program and then go on to sit for the Certified Financial Planner exam.  “I love helping people,” Jason says.  “I enjoy finance, I enjoy analytics, I enjoy diving into numbers and finding out what those numbers mean.”  We’re thrilled that Jason has found his niche, and we wish him the best in his studies!  Congratulations!  

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of The First Command Education Foundation and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Marcus Blanchard

Marcus Blanchard (Pleasant Grove, UT) spent four years in Marine Corps and achieved the rank of Corporal.  “I joined right out of high school,” Marcus says.  “it was always something I wanted to do.”  Marcus’s intentions for enlisting were very clear to him – he joined because he wanted to deploy and fight for his country.  He got his wish when his infantry unit deployed to Southern Afghanistan.  “There were lots of good learning opportunities there,” he says.  After that deployment, Marcus was sent to a unit that was going to Okinawa, Japan, away from the action.  “That was not where I wanted to be.  I felt like I was on a team that only got to practice and never got to play.  I joined to play the game.”  Unsatisfied and facing a Reduction in Force, Marcus decided to leave the Marine Corps and continue his education. “It’s been a good time,” he says.  “But in a peacetime Marine Corps, my time is better served elsewhere.”

His experience in the Marine Corps opened his eyes to some of the financial troubles that service members encounter.  “A lot of these guys – you’re 19 years old and you’ve got $20,000 in your bank account for the first time – they go right out and buy a truck with 26%  interest.  What people are saying they want with their money and what they’re doing with it are often at two opposite ends of the spectrum.”  He struggle a bit with his finance courses until he took a personal finance course.  “I LOVED it.  It had the numbers – it still had all the nerd stuff – but it’s so personal.  As soon as I switched majors, everything felt right again.”  Marcus finished his Bachelors in Personal Financial Planning in April 2018 and passed the CFP® Exam a few months after that.  He’s now working as an Associate Advisor and Account Manager and wants to round out his CFP® by completing the requirements for the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program.  We’re proud of what Marcus has accomplished and we see nothing but success ahead of him.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Ken Derr and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Tedd Shimp

Tedd Shimp (Round Rock, TX) is a retired Marine Corps Major who entered the Marine Corps in 1991.  A few years after enlisting, he was accepted into a commissioning program that would pay for him to go to school full time.  “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I did it. I liked the discipline and the physical, the mental aspects,” Tedd said.  “It was probably the best decision I ever made.”  When asked about the highlight of his 20-year career in the Marine Corps, Tedd cites the humanitarian work his unit performed following the Pacific Rim tsunami in 2004.  “That was the most reward and fulfilling,” Tedd says.  “It’s not as sexy as kicking in doors, but the amount of aid we were able to render to the people there is something I’ll remember forever.” 

When he began thinking about his post-Military life, Tedd began working on his MBA and earned his PMP certification. Currently, Tedd works at a company called ERCOT, which operates the electricity grid for approximately 75% of the state of Texas. “I’m currently managing a team of project managers, scrum masters, etc.  I like it, I like what I’m doing, I like the people that I’m working with.”  He’s got a great job, but Tedd is looking for his next career, and thinks financial services might be the right fit for him.  With the end goal of opening his own advisory practice in mind, Tedd will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant designation, which will provide him with all of the necessary skills and information to make this next career as meaningful as his first.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Amerilife and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Maureen Middleton

Maureen Middleton (Fayetteville, NC) is the spouse of a Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, and she has been by his side for the entirety of his military career.  “We met in college,” Maureen says. “When he commissioned, I was there to pin his rank to his shoulder.  For 23 years, wherever Dan went, I went.”  Dan is third generation Army, and Maureen says his family tried to prepare her for the challenge of a life as a military spouse.  “But nothing can prepare you,” Maureen says.  “I have a background in marketing and advertising, and I tried to make that work as a mobile career.  It was just so hard to recreate myself and my business every time we moved.”

Maureen was introduced to financial counseling, and ten years ago received the FINRA Fellowship to complete her Accredited Financial Counselor designation.  Since then, she’s been working with Zeiders as an on demand military financial counselor.  “I jumped at the opportunity,” Maureen says. “And it’s been a great ride.”  To further her skills and education, Maureen will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) designation, which will complement her AFC education and provide her with an even greater skillset to help her clients and military families.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Robert A. Miller in honor of Sidney Miller, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Elias Boddy

Elias Boddy (Bremerton, WA) is an Active Duty Navy Lieutenant and Surface Warfare Officer with nearly 20 years of service.  Originally from Portland, Oregon, Eli’s Naval career has taken him all over the country and the world, and he’s thankful for the opportunities that the Navy has provided.  “I made some poor decisions as a kid and joining the Navy really saved my life,” Eli says.  “There were people who showed me the right path and, despite my best efforts, succeeded.” 

One of roles Eli has played is as Command Financial Specialist, providing budgeting advice and financial counseling to the junior sailors.  “This is entry level stuff, but it’s important for them to understand it because if they don’t know it, they don’t know it.” Looking ahead at his post-retirement life, Eli wants his second career to be as meaningful as his first, and he’d thinks financial services will provide that for him.  “In my second career I’d like to be able to help people in whatever way that I can -- giving them the tools to be successful and giving them a path.”  Taking the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program will do just that – equip him with the skills to show his clients the path forward.  We’re thrilled to help Eli with his next career – Bravo Zulu!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Mrs. Barcy Grauer, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Program.

Datriona Carrington

Datriona Carrington (Federal Way, WA) is an Active Duty Navy Petty Officer Second Class who joined the Navy as a way to give herself a little direction.  “When I joined, I knew I was not making the military a career, but I wasn’t sure of the field I wanted to go in,” Datriona says. “It gave me the time to figure out what I wanted to do and create a plan so that I could be successful.”   In her current role of Command Financial Specialist, Datriona provides her sailors with financial advice regarding budgeting, saving, debt relief and other critical topics.  Her time in this role has provided her with a path forward for her career.  “I would like to help people budget, plan for retirement, invest and be more financially educated to grow their wealth and give back.”  Datriona says her own experiences have helped shape her desire to help others.  “I grew up in a family that had only seen the bad side of money.  I want to help people with all of the good things money can bring.”  Upon her separation from the Navy, Datriona wants to become a financial advisor full time.  To help her get a jump-start on this second career, she’ll be completing the Financial Services Certified Professional® (FSCP®) program, which will give her the skills to not only survive but to thrive.  We’re thrilled to help Datriona meet her goals and continue to serve others.  Bravo Zulu!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of New York Life and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.