HCC student who went to war wins battle for tuition

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Hillsborough Community College student Azaria Spano, 25, an Army reservist, was several months into the Spring semester last year when she got the call to active duty for her second tour in Afghanistan.

“It’s something I would do again if I had the choice,” Spano said. “There was no question I was going to go.”

Azaria Spano,25, former HCC student, ready for patrol in Afghanistan after being called up for active duty
Azaria Spano,25, former HCC student, ready for patrol in Afghanistan after being called up for active duty

Spano served six months in the combat zone as a military police officer patrolling the streets of Kandahar as a turret gunner, guarding prisoners of war, and in her off time handing out candy to Afghan children.

“They loved getting stuff from us,” Spano said.

Azaria making friends with Afghan kids by handing out candy during a lighter moment in the combat zone. She now wants to apply skills learned in Afghanistan to a career in police work here in the USA but needs a tuition refund to pay for the police academy

Spano left the war behind nearly a year ago, but she’s still fighting for a $1500 tuition refund from HCC, money she now needs to enroll in a police academy near Daytona Beach.

“It seems like I’m getting a bit of the runaround,” Spano said.

Military reservists called up for active duty have a broad protection spelled out in federal law pertaining to employment, health benefits, education and other financial matters. You can find more information about those laws here, here or by clicking this link.

Spano and her parents exchanged countless emails with HCC over the tuition refund. HCC caseworker Dr. Myra Caya confirmed in July 2014 that Spano qualified for the refund, but it never materialized. So after more than a year of patiently waiting for results, Spano finally contacted 8 On Your Side.

We called Ybor Campus President Dr. Shawn Robinson Monday on Spano’s behalf and within hours received a promise that Spano would soon receive her refund. ”We are very, very sorry for this,” said HCC Community Relations and Marketing Manager Angela Walters. “She will be receiving her full request. It will happen this week.”

“Finally a weight lifted off,” said Spano. “Something I can check off my list so I can get on with my education.”

Walters could not explain how Spano’s refund was bobbled in the system, but understood the urgency.

“The money means a lot to the student and again we apologize for the refund not being refunded,” said Walters. “The bottom line is she will be getting her refund.”

“Hopefully, I can bring what I’ve learned in Afghanistan—at least the police portion of it—to here and help better America, as well.” Spano said.

Nobody wants to get in the way of that.

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