By D.P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 29, 2018
U.S. Air Force Captain Nitin Prashar, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron executive officer, poses for his official photograph August 16, 2017, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Prashar created the Trail Blazer Scholarship which is offered to students who actively try to be a positive force for change in his home town of Rockford, Illinois, and in Omaha, Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard)
An executive officer assigned to the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, created a scholarship program to reward high schoolers who create a positive impact in their communities and further their education.
Recalling his experience as a teen in Rockford, Illinois, where he overcame tough neighborhoods and dangerous schools, Captain Nitin Prashar was sure he could make a difference if he applied his mind and resources. To that end, he developed the Trail Blazer Scholarship and offered it to students in the Rockford community.
“The Trail Blazer Scholarship program encourages students to make the world a better place,” Prashar said. “The requirements of this scholarship are unique as they call upon students to take action rather than express their will in words.”
He first offered the scholarship in his hometown during the 2010-2011 school year. Prashar expects competing for the scholarship will draw out the ideas, imagination, creativity and goodwill of students. He also wanted kids to understand that they don’t have to be rich and famous to make a difference.
The scholarship requires students to do more than simply attend classes and get good grades. It also challenges them to make a difference in their community and in the world. Prashar hopes by having positive changes in their community the student will feel empowered and confident in their ability to effect positive change.
What makes this scholarship unique is that all the applicants gain confidence as leaders and in executing their chosen cause, said Prashar, and he believes they will be bettered with the experience of leading and the assurance of executing, all while making a positive mark on the world.
Prashar left Rockford in 2006 to study economics and chiropractic at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While he was studying away from home he saw that not all cities were like Rockford. There were cities with good schools, safe neighborhoods and some even led a more privileged life. He said that one of the reasons he started the scholarship was to make a change for the better.
After graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Prashar returned to Rockford and worked as a bartender while waiting to attend air Force Officer Training School. Prashar put the money he earned working at the bar into his scholarship fund for students in area.
In the spring of 2013, Prashar left for OTS to earn a commission as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He later earned his wings as Combat Systems Officer and was assigned to Offutt AFB in November of 2014. After living in the Omaha community for four years Prashar opened an additional opportunity to win the scholarship in the Omaha area. Students from Omaha area public schools were offered the opportunity to compete for the scholarship for the first time.
Elkhorn High School Principal Dan Radicia said, he was impressed when Prashar came to the school to explain his vision and the details of the scholarship. He presented himself as a good role model from the start and was very gracious of the school’s time and processes.
With help from the school administration, Christine Jacha, Elkhorn High School student, was selected as the recipient of the 2017-2018 Omaha Trail Blazer Scholarship.
Jacha was already involved in her community during her senior year of high school when the scholarship became available. Growing up in Zimbabwe, she experienced firsthand the significance and benefits of community. Combined with her ability to recognize the importance of helping others through service rather than only fundraising, Jacha and her friend co-founded a student organization by the name of Students of Service.
Over the course of the school year, S.O.S. supported several different causes under Jacha’s direction. A donation drive to assist individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey, an awareness campaign on domestic violence and a kindness campaign to promote kindness and combat bullying were all the result of the organization’s actions.
Jacha plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall, where she will continue to advise the next generation of S.O.S. volunteers. She credits Prashar with inspiring her to be active in her community and to follow her passion.
Jacha said that Prashar once said, “It doesn’t really matter what you do, just as long as you have a positive impact.”