WeSalute Awards

TopVet: Angelina Trillo

Angelina Trillo

Angelina Trillo, Oregon Army National Guard medic, first-generation college student and daughter of an Army veteran, was recently named 2023 Student Veteran of the Year. She is the chapter president of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) for Oregon State University, where she will graduate this month with a B.S. in Political Science.

“Angelina is the definition of a veteran who continues to serve in all aspects, regardless of whether or not she is wearing a uniform,” said the official announcement in January. Trillo decided to join the National Guard during the pandemic when education moved online. 

“I figured it was the perfect time to enlist, go off to training, and resume school,” she told WeSalute in an exclusive interview. She resumed classes just three days after finishing AIT (Advanced Individual Training). She credits her dad (photo below), who served as a medic in the Army, for her work ethic. “He made me feel like I could succeed if I enlisted.”

Student Veteran of the YearStudent Veterans of the Year are chosen through a nomination process. SVA has a dedicated network of nearly 1,600 on-campus chapters in all 50 states and 4 countries representing more than 750,000 student veterans. SVA aims to inspire yesterday’s warriors by connecting student veterans with a community of like-minded chapter leaders.

“It is a great organization that opened a lot of doors for me,” said Trillo. “I recognized what it could do for my career, and was driven to help other student veterans find the same support. 

All of the nominees are amazing community leaders doing impressive work, and I’m honored to have access to such a fabulous network of professionals.”

Trillo is a prime example of successfully juggling the responsibilities of serving and studying. She encourages veterans looking to return to school to do their research on higher education programs, utilize resources for career advancement, and advocate for themselves. She suggests asking questions regarding disability access services, mental health services, scholarships, and remote scheduling. She urges veterans to make sure the schools are GI verified and offer PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veteran Education) services, and a Military Veterans Resource Center on campus. She also shares that VA work study positions in congressional offices are available.

On campus, Trillo has been credited with having been active through the student government to improve the lives of students. Earlier this month, she spent several days in Washington, D.C., on behalf of SVA to lobby legislators for student veteran policy changes, most notably the “Veterans Promise Deferral Admission,” which ensures qualified high school graduates a spot at the university when they return from active duty, and the ability to access advisors, online classes, and other university resources until they return.

“I would like to see better communications between VA, DoD, DoE, and individual accredited institutions to create more seamless transitions into higher education,” she said. “We can achieve this by having more expansive and interdisciplinary data tracking of individuals from entry through service and beyond, including transition assistance, education, employment, finances, disability and health, to include their families. This data should also be more openly shared between departments in order to make more informed policies and programming.”

Trillo will start her Masters in Public Health Policy and Administration this fall and has career plans to improve healthcare and education access for the military connected community. Her passion for education runs in the family: she has a new baby brother who’s learning Russian, Spanish, and English at a year and a half old!

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Cover Story: How & Why WeSalute Was Founded 25 Years Ago

WeSalute founders Scott and Lin Higgins have spent a lifetime in the military community, from Scott’s combat service in Vietnam and the service of Lin’s father in WWII, to serving families and veterans through the creation of memorials and parades as part of charitable and government initiatives. It was this lifetime of service that led them to establish WeSalute, originally founded as Veterans Advantage, and to continue giving back.

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