Years of volunteering has paid off for a 17-year-old youth volunteer who comes from a family of Veterans.

Brooke L. Jackowski of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, will receive the James H. Parke Memorial Youth Scholarship for her volunteer work at the Erie VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

Jackowski was awarded $20,000 to be used for tuition, fees, books and other educational needs at the college or university of her choice.

Karen O’Neal nominated the honor student for her work in business operations, executive leadership support, interior design and on the Medical Center’s COVID-19 response team. O’Neal is Chief of VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement (formerly Voluntary Service) at Erie VA.

“Brooke is a leader who readily and selflessly stepped up to be one of the first COVID-19 screeners at the Erie VAMC and the first youth volunteer across the entire network to serve in that role,” O’Neal said. “Her work as a volunteer provides hope and inspiration to others that this world in which we exist still has the potential to move in a positive direction for future generations.”

In addition to her work at VA, Jackowski volunteers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is active in high school academics and athletics.

“The greatest and most meaningful outcome resulting from my volunteer experience is the sense that I have been able to take part in the contribution of giving back to Veterans like my father and grandfather,” Jackowski explained. “Volunteering has also equipped me with self-confidence, intellectual growth, guidance, a sense of purpose, and most of all, humbling understanding. Without this experience I would never have been able to understand the true gratitude that I have for the sacrifice of Veterans and the sacrifice of those who care for our Veterans.”

Plans to major in actuarial science

Jackowski will attend Penn State Behrend College in Erie for two years. She intends to transfer to Penn State University later. She plans to major in actuarial science and her overall goal upon graduation is to use her mathematical and statistical skills to assess risk in insurance, finance, and other industries and professions.

John P. Brown, III, is president of the James H. Parke Memorial Fund Board of Directors. Brown is proud of the impact the scholarship fund has made in the lives of youth volunteers.

“It’s heartwarming to hear the stories of students who receive these scholarship awards and provide them with support they need to propel them toward their future goals,” said Brown, a Navy Veteran. “As someone who grew up in a home where money was tight, I later found success in life and I’m proud to work with the Board to pay this forward.”

According to Brown, oftentimes the memorial fund’s investment in VA’s youth volunteers comes full circle. Some of the awardees later choose to work at VA or private companies on behalf of Veterans.

The James H. Parke Memorial Fund relies on donations to support its operations and scholarship programs for VA youth volunteers.

For more information about volunteering with VA visit

Kenita D. Tills is an Army Veteran and a communications specialist for the VHA Office of Communications – Media Relations. Photo by Cooper Creative Arts, Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

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Published on Apr. 24, 2021

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One Comment

  1. Donald Coles April 29, 2021 at 9:40 am

    It is so nice to read such a wonderful story.

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