Samsung, Legion award $20,000 scholarships to 10 youth

In its 20th year, the Samsung American Legion Scholarship awarded 10 youth each with a $20,000 scholarship for undergraduate or graduate study. And 89 department finalists each received $750. The recipients earned the award based on several criteria, including participation in American Legion Boys State or Auxiliary Girls State and being a direct descendant of a wartime veteran eligible for Legion membership.

The 10 Samsung Scholars for 2016 are:

  • Benjamin Gustafson of Winchester, Va.
  • Matthew LaMirande of Dresser, Wis.
  • Sydney Marchando of Highlands Ranch, Colo.
  • James Libbey of Saint Michael, Minn.
  • Ryan Zuzulock of West Deptford, N.J.
  • Sydney Closs of Middletown, N.J.
  • Nicholas Cordero of Cave Springs, Ark.
  • Jennifer Litchfield of Oklahoma City
  • Jayelen Knowles of Moab, Utah
  • Sadie Mace of Paso Robles, Calif.

Nearly 2,000 students have received the scholarship since Samsung bestowed a $5 million endowment to the Legion in 1995 for the establishment of a scholarship fund for family members of U.S. citizens who are war veterans. The gesture was inspired by the support of the U.S. troops that came to the aid of South Korea while defending themselves against opposing Chinese and North Korean forces.

In effort to promote engagement and networking among the scholarship recipients, the Samsung American Legion Alumni Association (SALAA) was recently formed. SALAA currently has a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The alumni association's board of directors is comprised of nine Samsung Scholarship recipients whose goal is to develop and grow SALAA. Steven Spellmon, a 2011 Samsung Scholarship recipient and SALAA board member said the scholarship helped him graduate college debt-free and study renewable energy policy and technical development in Germany.

"I know the power this scholarship can have on people's lives, both young and old," said Spellmon, an operations analyst at Goldman Sachs in Alabama. When Spellmon told his grandfather about being a recipient of the Samsung Scholarship partly because of his service in the Korean War, "He said thoughtfully, 'Something good came out of that experience after all.' He never knew his service would be appreciated 60 years later."

Dr. Krysta Fink, a 1998 scholarship recipient and SALAA board member, is looking forward to "gaining more connection with alumni and fostering growth and recognition of the Samsung American Legion Alumni Association as a community of hope and pride. As a first-generation college student I was very fortunate to obtain this scholarship. The scholarship laid the foundation for me to continue pursuing my dreams and gave me hope that it was possible," said Fink, a licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia and South Carolina.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship awards up to $20,000 for undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need.

For more information about the scholarship, visit