Casondra Hamilton, MPA '11 has a runner’s physique and an easy smile that belie a quiet determination that helped her execute a military tour of duty and battle a life-threatening disease.
Hamilton joined the Navy in May 2001, serving as a radar systems technician on F-18 fighter jets in several parts of the world. Seeing poverty up close and participating in post-tsunami relief efforts in South Asia in 2004 had a profound affect on her, and Hamilton decided to pursue a career in public service once she completed her tour.
Following the Navy, she gained an undergraduate degree in public relations in 2007. Then, she mysteriously started losing weight. By the time Hamilton was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, 30 pounds had been torn from her slight frame and she had become so dehydrated she nearly lost her eyesight. In addition to the physical strain was a financial one — the cost of extensive testing and treatments had drained her finances and threatened her future studies.
With one year of funding remaining on her GI Bill, she enrolled in Binghamton’s master’s of public administration program in 2010. She completed as much of the coursework as possible, but ran out of money and was uncertain how she would pay for the final semester.
Her hard work paid for it. An outstanding student with a 3.9 grade-point average who volunteers for several organizations, Hamilton was awarded the Axtell Promise Scholarship, which partners recipients with a local nonprofit organization. She was partnered with the Community Foundation of South Central New York.
“Being awarded this scholarship makes me feel like others have faith in the things I do and the work I’ll do after I leave the program,” she says.
For Hamilton, that work will be helping nonprofits in the Southern Tier.