Feature   Know Your Military

Military Child Larissa Heslop Stands Out as Student-Athlete, Volunteer

April 21, 2021 | BY Barbara Gersna

Most children of those serving in the military move around a lot and sometimes attend several different schools. They learn to adapt to new environments as they move, leaving behind friends with hopes of making new ones. Many learn how to use these challenges to enhance their lives at a very young age.

Larissa Heslop, daughter of Army Lt. Col. Larry W. Heslop, G33 chief of operations, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, achieved much success as a student-athlete playing soccer while attending Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to these successes, she also volunteers to help others.

A woman poses with a cap and gown during her graduation.
Larissa Heslop
Larissa Heslop at her graduation ceremony from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., in spring 2020. Heslop graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average.
Photo By: Barbara Gersna
VIRIN: 200321-A-KJ673-0090C

Heslop said that she was exposed to diverse groups of people and different ways of thinking due to moving around a lot as a child. Her aspirations for international public service are driven in part by her upbringing as a military child. 

She attended seven different schools by the 12th grade.

"When I moved to different schools, I did not try to change myself to fit in; I remained true to myself," she said. "Staying true to myself contributes to my confidence in my ability to achieve my goals and follow my own path. The advice I would give to other military children is to stay true to yourself and what you love. From the military lifestyle, you will be exposed to many different cultures and people. While it is important to learn from every person and situation, it is also important to stay grounded in your own values."

Military children learn from an early age how to adapt to change since it is more constant and frequent in our lives."
Larissa Heslop

Heslop graduated from EKU as summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average in May 2020. She is now pursuing a master of public administration at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration in Lawrence, Kansas. She is preparing for a career in public service and hopes to lead humanitarian aid and relief efforts abroad with an international nonprofit organization or government agency.  

During high school she visited her father in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. She traveled internationally within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as part of her undergraduate studies in Egypt and also studied in England, Israel and Brazil.

A woman kicks a soccer ball during a game.
Sports Scholar
Larissa Heslop plays soccer for Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., in 2019. Heslop was named the 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year for women's soccer in the publication Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
Photo By: Barbara Gersna
VIRIN: 200321-A-KJ673-0092C

The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop Heslop from volunteering during her summer break. She delivered meals to the elderly with Warm Blessings Inc. and also read books virtually to hospitalized children with the Happy Hope Factory. 

An active leader both on and off the field, Heslop has received numerous awards recognizing her leadership, outstanding academic performance and community service. 

We are very proud of Larissa's hard work and accomplishments and hope that she may be an encouragement for other military children to make the most of the unique opportunities within our community."
Lt. Col. Larry W. Heslop

Heslop was named the 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year for women's soccer by the publication Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. She also received the Athletics Director Leadership Award - 2020 Colonels’ Choice Awards. She was named an academic All-American in 2019 and was a speaker at the 2018 Annual Eastern Kentucky University Championing Women's Athletics Luncheon. 

Heslop was also recognized with Play of the Year in the 2017 Colonels' Choice Awards for her game winning penalty shootout goal in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinals. 

As one of the winningest athletes in EKU soccer history, Heslop was nominated for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Woman of the Year award for 2020, representing Eastern Kentucky University and the Ohio Valley Conference. She was one of only two athletes selected in the initial Division 1 cut from the Ohio Valley Conference.

Heslop continues to be recognized at the University of Kansas where she was recently awarded the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award.

A family of three walks after a soccer game
Proud Parents
Larissa Heslop with her parents, Army Lt. Col. Larry W. Heslop and Juandalynn Heslop, at Eastern Kentucky University Soccer Field in spring 2020. Larissa Heslop has achieved much success on and off the soccer field.
Photo By: Barbara Gersna
VIRIN: 200321-A-KJ673-0069C

"My advisor nominated me for the award for graduate students at UK who demonstrate promise for a potential career in international service," she said.

"Separate from the Truman Award, I will be interning this summer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East Bureau," she said. "USAID is an organization I have been wanting to intern with, because I could see myself working there in the future as a foreign service officer," she said. 

Her father said, "We are very proud of Larissa's hard work and accomplishments and hope that she may be an encouragement for other military children to make the most of the unique opportunities within our community."

Larissa shared a famous quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, "The only thing constant in life is change." She said, "Military children learn from an early age how to adapt to change since it is more constant and frequent in our lives. Many people do not learn to deal with big changes until later in life. I would encourage other military children to embrace this skillset. Life is easier when you learn to trust that change can work for your benefit and that each season of life can bring new growth."