The SMART Scholarship opens August 1, 2022. Apply Today!
Before KeeAnia Kinkacha elevated her career through a coveted Department of Defense (DoD) scholarship, it was the decision to attend an HBCU that set her on a path for success. The recent graduate of the illustrious North Carolina A&T State University thought she would use her education for a generic office job, but she now has far more options on the table. “My experience of my beloved A&T changed the game for me,” she said. “I went into school aspiring just for a corporate job with a decent cubicle to give me and my family financial freedom, but A&T showed me that I can be so much more while also inspiring the next generation to do the same.”
With her sights set on a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, she found herself searching for a program that could supplement her HBCU studies. The Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program turned out to be the perfect fit. Standing for Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation, the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program. the DoD’s premiere opportunity for ambitious undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students.
Upon going through the finalist round and being accepted, KeeAnia found that her expectations were surpassed. Her tuition was covered, eliminating what is a financial hurdle experienced by many college students. She received a monthly stipend of over $2,000 year-round, although students can receive between $25,000 – $38,000 annually depending on degree level. As part of the scholarship, the program also provides participants with a job offer after graduation in industries that can be difficult to break into. Over 3,000 scholarships have been awarded so far. “Working with a government agency is a highly coveted job and I am able to start as a government employee,” she said. “[My] new hire program… will set me up to gain the skills I need to launch my own technologies enterprise while also keeping a secure career in government.”
KeeAnia was eligible for the program because of her major, but applicants have 21 STEM disciplines to choose from to align with their studies. They range from aeronautical engineering to civil engineering, biosciences to geosciences, and mathematics to oceanography. With her Information Technology degree, KeeAnia was able to help transfer the Army’s main frames to a cloud base system. Her real-world experience was reviewed by high-ranking generals and officers involved in Army operations.
Although the work was an important benefit to her, KeeAnia found the most value in the people of the program. “My favorite part of my internship was the environment my manager and mentor fostered for me. They believed in me even when their higher ups didn’t,” she said. Although some doubted that one project would fit her current skill level, she proved them wrong. Within 10 weeks, she was able to get through two thirds of a project that was projected to need 6 months. By proving herself, she left the internship with lasting skills and contacts. “This is an experience I will never forget,” she said.
If you’re interested in the SMART scholarship program, head to smartscholarship.org to learn more. The program may be a great fit for your career, too. “This is an amazing opportunity for any student, but specifically HBCU students,” said KeeAnia. “Use your qualities that will make you stand out amongst other candidates, like being an HBCU student. We bring a different style of thinking to the table that is so needed!”
Those interested in the program can apply between August 1 and December 1 here.