Staff Sgt. Yelbert receives Air Force Club Scholarship

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and reports and analysis NCO in charge, stands outside the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received a scholarship for $4,000 and congratulations on his hard work and efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and reports and analysis NCO in charge, stands outside the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received a scholarship for $4,000 and congratulations on his hard work and efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Hamrick, 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, and Toni Hansen, 17th Force Support Squadron Director, award Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and NCO in charge for reports and analysis, the Air Force 2016 Club Scholarship for $4,000 at the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received 2nd place in the scholarship competition throughout the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Hamrick, 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, and Toni Hansen, 17th Force Support Squadron Director, award Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and NCO in charge for reports and analysis, the Air Force 2016 Club Scholarship for $4,000 at the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received 2nd place in the scholarship competition throughout the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Hamrick, 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, gives a shout out to Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and reports and analysis NCO in charge, for his achievements at the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received an Air Force 2016 Club Scholarship for $4,000. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Hamrick, 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, gives a shout out to Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician and reports and analysis NCO in charge, for his achievements at the Norma Brown Building on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 28, 2016. Yelbert received an Air Force 2016 Club Scholarship for $4,000. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caelynn Ferguson/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Col. Terry Hamrick, 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, presented the 2016 Air Force Club Scholarship to Staff Sgt. Stephen Yelbert, 17th Comptroller Squadron NCO in charge of travel, front counter, and reports and analysis, at the Norma Brown Building wing conference room June 28.

Yelbert had been invited to give a briefing about the Defense Travel System during the usual Wing Stand Up briefing in the wing conference room. He didn’t realize that it was actually an opportunity for wing leadership to surprise him with the scholarship award.

"You are a winner in the Air Force Club Scholarship program,” said Col. Christopher Harris, 17th Mission Support Group Commander. “Staff Sgt. Yelbert submitted a one thousand-word essay, took 2nd place in the Air Force and received $4,000. He was number 2 out of 85 entrants across our Air Force. We couldn’t be more proud of you. Congratulations.”

When Yelbert and his wife looked the scholarship up, they found that applicants could win up to 5,000 dollars. So they figured ‘Why not just give it a try?’

“I know a lot of people don’t put in the effort to do things like this, because they feel like ‘maybe I might not win’,” said Yelbert. “But who knows? That’s just what prompted us to give it a try and see how it goes.”

With the support of his wife, they wrote an essay, humbly asked for recommendation letters from Maj. Edward Harris, 17th Comptroller Squadron Commander, and civic organizations off base.

In a letter from Mary Payton, American Cancer Society community manager in San Angelo, she details Yelbert serving as co-chair of the activities committee with his wife, planning and executing activities for Relay For Life and more.

“I’ve been working with her for the past two years,” said Yelbert. “She found it helpful [to return his support] so she decided to write me a letter.”

My wife definitely played a huge role, said Yelbert. She did all the background research, she printed out the requirements and we worked together to get this completed. She’s always my right hand person.

“I get inspired by her every day,” said Yelbert. “When she went to school she relied on scholarships like this to get school paid for. You don’t just get these scholarships, you actually have to put in the work. Which is what she’s trying to help me do so I can encourage my subordinates and encourage my friends towards doing the same.”

As for the requirements for the scholarship, Yelbert had to tell his Air Force story.

Yelbert said he wrote about his experiences of moving from Ghana, West Africa, to the United States and enlisting in the Air Force. He wrote about the day-to-day and year-to-year efforts, and how it led him to be recognized.

Yelbert starts college in August in the Senior Leader Commissioning Program where he will stay on active duty and go to school for two years, and then commission into the Air Force.

“A lot of people want to come to America from back home in search of opportunities,” said Yelbert. “I feel, the opportunities in America are bountiful. I told myself if I did my best, worked hard, kept my nose clean, and lived by the Air Force core values to the best of my ability, I would reap the fruits of my labor. I will count my blessing and name them one by one.”