Veteran Stories

Navy Veteran Matches High Schooler’s Character Does Matter Scholarship

Each year at the annual “If Not Me, Then Who…” Gala in Philadelphia, PA, TMF awards a scholarship to a high school student who has gone through the Character Does Matter program. These students come from different regions and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: their display of exemplary character both within their schools and out in their communities. This year, the $8,000 scholarship was awarded to Diego Pinzon-Fontecha, a senior at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia. It was then generously matched by AMSG, the company of his nominator, Jim O’Farrell. AMSG is a Washington, D.C.-area federal contracting firm. “I couldn’t think of a more deserving student for this scholarship,” said Jim, a 1989 Naval Academy graduate who volunteers as a CDM mentor in his free time. “Diego embodies the character and leadership that TMF stands for every single day.”

“Diego embodies the character and leadership that TMF stands for every single day.” – Jim O'Farrell

Diego was first introduced to TMF during a CDM presentation last year led by Jim. When Diego moved from his native Colombia to the United States in 2015, he quickly set his mind to achieving academic and athletic success. He picked up English as a second language, joined the soccer team and volunteered to mentor at-risk students at the local elementary school. “Diego is the kind of kid who is so determined that he will succeed in anything he puts his mind to,” Jim said, adding that when Diego gave up soccer to work at a local grocery store after school to help his parents pay the bills, he was embodying the “If Not Me, Then Who…” mantra. “He is a super kid in all aspects,” Jim said. “I know that he’ll go far.”

“I have this foundation to thank for reawakening my spirit, and that’s why I was inspired to give back." – Jim O'Farrell

Jim has valued getting to know Diego. “Diego doesn’t know the impact he has had on me,” he said. Jim jumped at the chance to become a Character Does Matter Mentor in 2014. He missed serving in the Navy, and sought ways to reconnect with the military community, and honor his USNA roommate, John Kainer, a Navy SEAL who died of a brain tumor in 2009. Becoming involved with TMF gave him new purpose, which is why, since becoming a CDM mentor, he has taken leadership roles in the 9/11 Heroes Run, serving as the Race Director for the Alexandria 9/11 Heroes Run since 2015 and serving as the Project Coordinator for several TMF Operation Legacy projects over the past two years. “I have this foundation to thank for reawakening my spirit, and that’s why I was inspired to give back,” he said. “It makes me so happy that Diego has come to the states and is doing everything he can do to succeed. We’re all immigrants. It’s the right thing to do, and TMF has made it possible for Diego to see a brighter future that includes college.”

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