When DeShawn Blanding learned that he had received a Bill Moon Scholarship award, his first reaction was to drive to the TravelCenters of America location in Manning, South Carolina, where his mother is the assistant general manager to tell her the news in person.
“I walked in and told her. She started smiling and gave me a big hug and told me how proud she was of me,” Blanding said.
Blanding’s mother, Barbara Blanding, has worked at the TA location for 30 years. “She started off as a cashier and worked her way up to management,” Blanding said, adding that he worked in the Country Pride restaurant at the location for two years. “I stopped working there this summer so I could go to school.”
Blanding is one of five students to receive a $5,000 Bill Moon Scholarship from The NATSO Foundation. He is pursuing environmental studies as a freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and would like to be an environmental attorney.
Each of the recipients is impressive. This is the fourth year Victoria Stavish has received the Bill Moon Scholarship. “This year will be my fourth year in college, my third year as a resident assistant, and my second year enrolled at the University of Montana Skaggs School of Pharmacy doctorate program,” Stavish said, adding that this summer she interned at the Fresh Market Pharmacy in Missoula, Montana.
Stavish’s mother, Lori Stavish, works at Muralt’s Travel Plaza in Missoula, and Stavish has worked for All Events Catering, which is also owned by the Muralt family, in the past.
Daryll Marie Carlson is also a repeat winner of the award. This is her second time receiving the honor. She is entering her junior year studying marine biology at Stanford University. Her father, Daryll Carlson, is the maintenance manager at the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza in Sacramento, California, where he is in charge of the janitorial staff and coordinating repairs and maintenance.
Scholarship recipient Maraid Jimenez also has ties to Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza, where her mother, Florentina Jimenez, works in food prep at the restaurant. Jimenez is entering the University of California at Berkley as a freshman. She plans to major in either Latin American studies or society and environment.
Alexander Barsa is starting his second year at County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey. He is majoring in mechanical engineering technology and is attending school while also working at Kingtown Truck Stop where he assists with maintenance. “The latest project involved constructing a drainage diversion system to alleviate excess storm water and to allow it to seep back into the ground,” he said, adding that because he supports himself while also attending school, the scholarship will allow him to concentrate and put more effort into his education, which will improve his grades.
Recipients agreed that the recognition and financial assistance meant a lot to them and their families. “Both of my parents are very proud of me for winning this scholarship. They know that this means less financial stress for me and constantly say that I have worked hard for it,” Jimenez said.
Blanding said, “I grew up in a single parent household. My mom struggled a little bit to take care of her five kids. I know if I didn’t have any scholarships, I would not have been able to attend school.”
Carlson said she will get to experience additional learning opportunities thanks to the scholarship. “This upcoming year, Stanford is giving me the chance to go to Australia and do hands-on research in my area of study, marine biology, giving me valuable skills and experience for the future,” she said. “Opportunities such as this are ones that I can thank the NATSO Foundation’s generous support for.”
The scholarship is named after Bill Moon, who founded the Iowa 80 Group and made substantial contributions to NATSO, actively supporting and participating in industry-related government affairs issues. He served as chairman of NATSO in 1989 and as the first chairman of the NATSO Foundation in 1990.
The NATSO Foundation releases the scholarship application each spring and applicants are judged by a independent review with selections based on academic merit, financial need, community activities and a short essay.
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