A little bit of history came to life for Cadet Brooke Edwards of Bristow, Virginia, as she collected donations for the National D-Day Memorial, an effort that raised $4,933.13 for the site in Bedford, Virginia.

Edwards, a junior majoring in finance in the Pamplin College of Business, led 16 cadets who volunteered to take donations during the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ parents tailgate and the Lane Stadium entrances during the Sept. 17 football game against Boston College, which was Corps Homecoming and Military Appreciation Day.

The money raised was the highest total for the cadets’ annual collection since 2012. But more importantly, Edwards said, she got to talk with alumni who shared their stories about June 6, 1944, as Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

“It’s one thing to learn about it from books, but it’s another to hear someone say, ‘I was there.’ We heard some incredible stories,” Edwards said.

Cadets in the corps’ citizen-leader track champion the collection each year and have amassed a binder of how-to information and tips and tricks, which helped with the planning process, she said.

About a quarter of the corps’ 1,100 cadets are in the citizen-leader track, which focuses on leadership training for students like Edwards who aren’t seeking a military career. A board of advisors — including representatives of Fortune 500 companies — helps guide the curriculum to make these cadets more competitive for jobs in the public and private sector.

Edwards, a recipient of the corps’ Emerging Leader Scholarship, aims to become a Certified Financial Planner after graduation, a path she discovered while trying to become more educated about her own finances.

She said the biggest thing she’s learned through the citizen-leader track is the power of motivation.

"It's taught me how to motivate myself," Edwards said. "The corps won't always be there to motivate you. It will set you up for success, but once you're out on your own, you have to be the one to do the work."

The Corps of Cadets began supporting the memorial in 2001, when former cadet Anthony Madeira, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 2005, read that the memorial was facing bankruptcy. 

Madeira started fundraising as a service project, and his corps’ company raised $6,000 the first year and $10,000 the next. By Madeira’s senior year, the effort was a corps-wide annual service project. It remains so today.

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