Pauline Leonard picked up the phone.
“Hello,” she said.
“Is she in college, yet?” asked the caller.
“No,” Leonard replied.
The next week, Col. George W. Schantz Jr., USAF (Ret.) called the Leonard household again and made an appointment with recent Southern Wayne grad Quyana Vann Leonard to fill out paperwork for an ROTC scholarship.
Leonard wasn’t too keen on the military.
But, she also didn’t want to stay home and twiddle her thumbs.
“When he talked about it, I thought that sounds big and I probably wouldn’t qualify to get it,” said Vann Leonard. “I prayed ‘God, if this is really what you want me to do, then you’ll make a way for it to come.’
“Everything was going through and I thought God must really want me to do this. When it happened, I was like ‘wow, I guess I can do this.’”
Leonard met the requirements for the Armed Forces Physical and Air Force fitness standards, and successfully passed the Air Force Officer Qualification Test. The five-hour test is comparable to the SAT.
Fast forward six months.
With her first semester at Fayetteville State University in the books, Leonard received an unexpected gift just two days before Christmas.
She earned a four-year scholarship that covers all tuition and fees, pays a stipend and includes a commission in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force upon graduation.
Leonard graciously accepted the ROTC scholarship and signed a contract with the USAF. According to Col. Schantz, she is one of the first Wayne County Public Schools graduates in over a decade to receive the prestigious scholarship.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do [after graduation],” Leonard said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go straight into school or just straight into the military. I had hope that a blessing would come, get me away [from] here and help me and my family.”
Leonard plans to pursue a degree in business administration and focus on health care management. Once she obtains her diploma, she’ll enter the USAF as a second lieutenant and is required to serve at least four years.
An out-spoken individual, she wants to retire from the military after 20 years and then start her civilian career.
ROTC at Southern Wayne helped prepare Leonard.
“I feel like it’s family, in a way,” she said. “We motivate each other and push each other to their limits and that’s something everybody really needs in their life — a little motivation to push them where they need to go.
“I learned to never give up, always push and follow your dreams.”
And listen to her biggest support team — her mother and two brothers, 14-year-old Quimel and 3-year-old Quizekiel.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” Leonard said.