Stories of Impact

Martindale ’25: The Power of Private Support

Delilah Martindale ’25


In summer 2021, Cadet Delilah Martindale ’25 came to VMI as an early return cadet-athlete, far from her San Francisco, California, home. A midfielder on the Keydet women’s soccer team, she was ecstatic to have the chance to play her sport at the Division I level and experience the challenge of a military school, but in the back of her mind, she was dealing with a nagging fear: What if finances prevented her from completing her cadetship?

Martindale came in paying almost full out-of-state tuition, with only a slight adjustment offered by the FAFSA. It was a price she knew her parents couldn’t keep paying over and over again. Now, two years later, her worries have been replaced with gratitude: Martindale has amassed enough scholarships that she’s on a full ride.

And while she’s been racking up scholarships, Martindale has also been posting impressive achievements in a wide variety of areas. A member of the Institute Honors program who wears academic stars, Martindale is majoring in international studies, with minors in modern languages and cultures (Spanish) and psychology. She’s also the S4 (public relations) sergeant for cadet EMTs. After VMI, she plans on commissioning in the U.S. Army, with hopes of working for a government agency down the road.

It’s a path she could have hardly foreseen during her rat year when she was struggling to figure out how she’d be able to afford to stay at VMI.

“The first year drains your bank account—the out-of-state tuition is very, very high,” Martindale noted. “To be able to have that opportunity to stay at this school and to be able to pursue everything I’ve pursued here … I’ve done well academically. I’ve competed athletically. I’ve found that I want to commission after graduation. I’ve become an EMT. I’ve done so much solely because I was able to stay here through the funds of the VMI scholarships.”

Martindale found her way to VMI by happenstance. A fellow soccer player at her high school was being recruited by another senior military college, and soon, Martindale found herself being recruited by the same school. At that point, she went online, discovered the Institute, and sent in videos of herself playing soccer.

“VMI really stood out to me about being the place I wanted to go,” she commented. “I really love how small the school is. It was really important for me to be in an environment where I’m able to connect with my teachers.”

Another factor also stood out in the Institute’s favor: “I heard that VMI was harder. And I really liked the environment that VMI had. And I think that really sold me.”

"I’ve done so much solely because I was able to stay here through the funds of the VMI scholarships."

Delilah Martindale ’25

Piece by piece, Martindale’s jigsaw puzzle of how to pay for college came into shape. First, Martindale picked up a soccer scholarship. Next came an Army ROTC scholarship, and then, finally, financial assistance through the Institute Honors program. “The Army covers my tuition and fees; soccer and the honors program cover the leftover,” Martindale explained. “So, I came in as a rat with nothing, and now I have everything paid for.”

Almost halfway through her 2nd Class year, Martindale is finding more and more to appreciate about VMI. For one, there’s the Institute Honors program, which provides enrichment opportunities for cadets of all majors. “It’s an awesome opportunity to discuss current-day issues,” Martindale stated. “It’s a class that makes me challenge myself [in] different aspects. … We have biology majors, and we have civil engineering majors. Everyone’s talking in the same room. It’s very interesting to learn from all these different people.”

Then there’s the reward of putting in the time on academics—and seeing the results of those hours upon hours spent studying. “I really love to excel in academics, but you really do have to put in the work,” she commented. “You have to do every little thing and more. You have to reach out to your teachers … you have to go to their office hours. You have to go to the Writing Center and go to as many of the opportunities that VMI offers you for your academic support.”

Taking advantage of leadership opportunities has been of great importance to Martindale, as well. As public relations sergeant for the cadet EMTs, she has opportunities to practice her leadership skills each day. “The leadership lessons I’m learning are so important,” she stated. “With the EMS staff, there’s a lot of different people that are there. And it’s taught me how to deal with people, how to communicate with different people, what’s the proper way to communicate and interact with other people. That’s the most important part for me because when I commission and become a second lieutenant, I’m going to need to know how to lead and deal with a lot of different kinds of people.”

Soccer, too, has been an area of growth for Martindale. As a rat, she didn’t get to play in a lot of games, which made for a disappointing start to her first year as an NCAA athlete. “My freshman year, it was very difficult adjusting to the speed of play,” she explained. “I was not where I needed to be or where I wanted to be. … So, I learned that I needed to start doing film with my coach. I needed to start doing extra.”

That extra effort has paid off. “I’m a starter now,” Martindale shared. “I get a lot of minutes a game. I’m very, very happy and thankful for that. And that process is the same as the Rat Line: You have to start at the very bottom and dig your way up.”

Some days, Martindale reflects on the person she was when she first headed east in 2021—and then she considers how much digging her way up has molded her into the person she is today. “I am so thankful I came to VMI,” she said. “I personally could not see myself at any other school. I have grown immensely just in my two years here. … But the amount of time, even though it’s only been two years, I feel like I’ve matured 10 years. It’s an insane amount of growth that the school puts into you. And I’m so thankful for the person I have become since coming to VMI.”

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