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Nicole Milford: Growing Up With a Military Dad

Nicole repping an ISU t-shirt.

Scholarship finalist Nicole Milford is an Air Force kid pursuing her undergrad in Business Management and Marketing at Idaho State University.

As a member of ISU’s Honors Program, Nicole has fundraised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helped grant students affordable education, and volunteered at the Idaho State Veterans Home for the Veterans Olympics.

Here’s Nicole’s essay, which placed her as a top 5 finalist for our scholarship:


Integrity first

Having a father enlisted in the United States Air Force meant that it was the norm to have a parent work twelve-hour swing or night shifts loading big bombs onto jets. He would often return home smelling like the flightline, metal and jet fuel.

I grew up accustomed to the thunder of jets flying overhead and my young friends and I stopping mid-play to place our hands over our heart for the national anthem. It was common to make great friends and close connections that would soon be moving during PCS season.

To help me cope with the many realities of being an Air Force child, my father instilled resiliency and the Air Force core values into mine and my siblings’ hearts, ‘integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.’ These core values especially influenced my educational goals.

I am currently in Idaho State University’s Honors Program, majoring in Business Management & Marketing with an emphasis in Human Resources, in part so that I can aid organizations practice integrity. I hope to aid companies in growing diverse staff and inclusive, equitable environments—another value I adopted while being a child of a military service member.

Being exposed to many different cultures and perspectives through my family’s travels allowed me to grow with an open mind and caring heart towards all people. I plan to use this acceptance to help companies and organizations develop inclusive and positive workplace cultures that promote personal and professional growth.


Service before self

Additionally, being raised in an Air Force family that often practiced ‘service before self’ reminds me that no matter what, I wanted an education centered around helping others.

I want to make sure that I am not focusing on learning in the classroom setting alone, but often engaging in experiential based learning as well. This meant when finding a program to apply to, I placed great importance on those that had courses that would engage me in challenging projects and community-based learning. I am so grateful to have found this at my current university. In fact, in this semester alone, I helped organize two fundraisers for my community.

Currently I am working on a fundraiser to benefit Make-A-Wish Idaho called Rags to Wishes, where a pop-up thrift store will generate funds to make a wish come true. Additionally, I’m a Fundraising Coordinator for the 10th annual Opportuni-tea, which raises scholarship funds for fellow Honors students.

Personally, the best part of service is establishing lasting connections with my community. Living by the Air Force value of ‘service before self’ allows me to do just this, while also making a positive impact on the lives of others.


Excellence in all we do

Finally, practicing excellence in all I do is a consistent motivator and guiding force for me in choosing my major, my career path, being part of the university Honors Program and in my community volunteer work.

My dedication to academic excellence in high school resulted in a 4.0 GPA and Valedictorian status, setting me apart from the masses. This achievement prepared me for the intense nature of collegiate academia. I’ve managed full course loads while also participating in student organizations, working as an intern, and organizing fundraisers. Although it’s been challenging, I’ve earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester and continue to strive for academic excellence. Last Spring, I was nominated for Student Employee of the Year because of my excellent work ethic.

I live each and every day by the core Air Force values my father instilled in me, and I hope I can prepare my own children for both personal and academic challenges in the same way my father did. Upon graduating from Idaho State University with my degree in May of 2021, I plan to commission in the USAF, carrying on my family’s commitment to community and service.


For more, read the scholarship-winning essay by Christine Lewis here.


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