Catching up with the SPY-6 scholars
Raytheon Missiles & Defense scholarships help US Navy veterans reach education and career goals
Chris Ricks aspires to be a business leader in technology.
“My military experience made me realize that I operate at the highest version of myself when I can empower others to do the same,” said Ricks, an 8-year U.S. Navy veteran.
Ricks was among the first veterans to receive a SPY-6 scholarship from Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, in partnership with the Student Veterans of America, or SVA.
The $10,000 scholarship, named for the Navy’s SPY-6 family of radars, offers returning sailors an opportunity to achieve their education goals, equipping them for success in the civilian world. Scholarships are offered exclusively to Navy veterans pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at an accredited university. Recipients must demonstrate leadership in their local community.
“I appreciate Raytheon Technologies supporting me through my transition out of the military,” said Ricks, a 2020 scholarship recipient who graduated from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, in May 2022.
The former sailor used the SPY-6 scholarship to help pay for his MBA.
“I look at it as a long-term investment that will serve as a foundation for the next chapter of my life,” Ricks said.
And that next chapter has started. After graduating, Ricks relocated with his family from Boston to New York City, New York, where he is a product manager at Capital One.
Here's a look at the two military veterans who have been awarded the SPY-6 scholarship for 2022, and an update on how previous recipients have used the scholarship to find success as civilians.
Kenneth Sheehan served five years active duty in the Navy, and he’s now an intern at the Biden Institute and a senior at the University of Delaware, both in Newark. In his spare time, he volunteers as a coach for the Special Olympics.
With the support of the SPY-6 scholarship, Sheehan is slated to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies and minor in Islamic studies.
Brennen Sanders served as a supervisor for a nuclear-powered submarine in the Navy and now holds a co-op position at Georgia Power. He is a junior studying electrical engineering at the University of Georgia in Athens.
As chapter president of SVA, he plans networking opportunities for other veterans on campus and outreach activities in the community.
Bianca Islas is a graduate research assistant at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, and she has completed a thesis on post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for veterans. Islas works at the Outpatient Neuropsychology Clinic for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Southern Nevada Healthcare System, which assesses patients with neurological and psychiatric conditions.
Her son began Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or JROTC, in August 2022.
“He was inspired to be a fighter pilot after watching Top Gun: Maverick and would like to carry on the tradition of both me and my husband,” Islas said. “I know it’s not my personal milestone but as a mother, I could not be prouder.”
In 2022, Maria Espinosa graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University in Tempe with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Espinosa completed the school’s Veterans Scholar program, which introduces core leadership skills and early career guidance.
She is a mission operations engineer at an aerospace and defense company, where she’s involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, efforts.
“I hope to continue volunteering with students to help inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists,” said Espinosa, who was a judge at RoboNation’s 2022 SeaPerch international competition.
Francheska Salazar will graduate in 2023 from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with bachelor’s degrees in international affairs and history.
While serving 13 years in the military, Salazar deployed to Latin America on humanitarian missions that helped shape her career trajectory and life purpose.
"I want to be part of a team that works to find long-term solutions," said Salazar, who advocates for the Iraqi and Afghan communities.
The student veteran is active on many boards and committees at GWU and works at the school’s Military and Veterans’ Resource Center. She attributes her ongoing success to the SPY-6 scholarship.
“I cannot thank SVA and Raytheon Technologies enough for my scholarship and showcasing me as a recipient,” Salazar said. “It truly made all the difference for me.”