Headshot of scholarship winner Vanessa Vajko.

TonaLaw’s annual Veterans’ Scholarship Program is our firm’s way of showing appreciation to the brave men and women who have served our country. We award $2500 to a selected candidate for the Spring Semester each year.

This year, it is with great pride and enthusiasm that we announce the winner of the Spring 2024 TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship Program, Vanessa Vajko. Vanessa is a woman who rose on her own merits out of a challenging start in life to become an exemplary pillar of the community with a powerful desire to give back.

And we at TonaLaw award you this scholarship as our own way of giving back to you. Congratulations, and thank you for your service, Vanessa!

Who Is Vanessa Vajko?

Vanessa Vajko’s story can be described as one of resilience. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she grew up against the backdrop of a violent neighborhood in a household absent any motivation for her to pursue academic growth and excellence.

Vanessa’s parents never finished college, and in her words, this “eventually trickled down” to her. There was never any discussion of future aspirations, dreams, or goals, and Vanessa was never pushed to challenge herself academically.

Like most young kids, Vanessa wanted to reach for something, but without any target to reach for, there was little motivation to spend time and energy in the school system.

As a result of these starting circumstances, Vanessa eventually found herself attending a disadvantaged high school rife with delinquent activity, including class-skipping and mistreatment of teachers. There was no clear path to a future career goal, much less to a prestigious college degree, and her motivation dipped continuously throughout her junior and senior years.

“I remember being very jealous of other students who did have parents who tried and who were excited to be going off to college,” Vanessa wrote in response to an interview questionnaire after winning the award. “But my home life was so draining that I let my GPA fall and ended up joining the crowd that skipped class.”Vanessa believes her downward academic spiral could have gotten much worse had the environment remained the same. However, an inner spark prompted her to prove to herself that she could make it on her own.

And, in spite of everything holding her back, by the age of 19, Vanessa chose to join the Navy. This proved to be the change of environment Vanessa needed to set her own goals, which she had lacked for most of her life.

Vanessa’s Transformation Through Experience

As a member of the Armed Forces, Vanessa was able to explore the world, visit places, and meet people she would not have been able to otherwise. During one specific deployment to South America, she had the opportunity to explore Brazil, Peru, and Chile, where she fell in love with a life of freedom and motivation that she had chosen to work toward.

Surrounded by  – in her own words – “strong, independent, motivated, and highly-educated women,” Vanessa finally had the peers and model figures whom she had been missing for most of her life. She witnessed her sisters-in-arms rise through the ranks and eventually pursue college education and other personal dreams.

It was a far cry from the listlessness and emptiness of her childhood, and she knew she never wanted to go back.

A Transition to Nursing: More Than One Way to Serve

Coming home from military service with a newfound drive to put back in the world, Vanessa applied for the Nursing Program at the University of Michigan-Flint, where she would learn to serve the American people in a new way. She had always wanted a meaningful career where she could do something good for others, and this selflessness clicked just fine with the patient-facing nature of nursing.

Nursing requires a level of dedication to the art; in a different but similar vein to the military, lives are on the line when a nurse is on duty. Vanessa recognized that a nurse has to give every aspect of themselves when on the job to keep people alive – a demand that she finds extremely honorable.

“I don’t think there are many jobs out there where someone gets to help humanity in the way that nurses can,” she writes. “I admire that and want to be that.”

Vanessa believes that her military experience gives her unique exposure to trauma among veterans, which she can use to establish stronger empathic connections with patients and allow her to provide better care.

Today, her path to a nursing degree is straightforward and free of the obstacles that held her back as a troubled teen, and TonaLaw hopes to help her along her journey with our Veterans’ Scholarship program.

Winning the TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship

Beyond the direct financial benefit that a scholarship provides, Vanessa finds that the TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship program will leave a lasting impact on her academic and professional journey.

“I am so grateful for this scholarship! I think it will just lessen the daily stress that I go through to finish my education and keep on pushing on, and any shred of relief counts.”

According to Vanessa, TonaLaw’s scholarship award allows her to focus on her studies and school programs rather than worrying about bills and debt. She also thinks of it as a reminder that we as people are all on a journey together and that helping one another in any small way can be a big step forward for everyone.

With all this in mind, Vanessa has set the simple personal goal of finishing the Spring semester with the scholarship. Her hope is that by working with vulnerable populations across the state, she will be able to gain more clinical experience to help those who need it the most.

What’s Next for Vanessa Vajko?

Vanessa Vajko is an impressive spirit of determination, resilience, and commitment to a cause. This, to us – and we are certain, to many more – made all the more remarkable by her humble beginnings from the rough streets of the South Side of Chicago.

Today, Vanessa is a woman she has built herself into, but what sets her apart is not just the self-made story but the conscious, selfless decision to use everything she has earned to effect positive change for others. Meaningfulness and service are, by all means, more a calling than a choice to Vanessa.

There’s something to be said about a passion that stems from a person’s belief in empathy and care; Vanessa sees nursing as a way to offer calm, support, and hope to those who lack them in their vulnerable moments. Her time in the Navy, part of which was spent abroad on deployments, has given her a broad perspective, a sense of possibility, and a desire to share the same inspiration with those with whom she works.

Time will tell where Vanessa’s journey will take her. And, of course, we at TonaLaw will be rooting for success in all her endeavors she puts her mind to.

We are excited about Vanessa’s future plans. We hope that her story and the positive change and self-determination that it embodies will resonate with those who hear of it, granting the same drive and perseverance to young and troubled kids in the same shoes she once wore.

Are You the Next TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship Awardee?

To the brave veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen of our armed forces, we at TonaLaw thank you for fighting for and representing our country. We extend our gratitude to those with the soul that characterizes those who sacrifice so much to preserve our freedoms. 

To Vanessa and other scholarship applicants, we thank you for inspiring not just us but potentially entire generations with your stories of success in the face of adversity. You and your brothers and sisters in arms embody the values for which we established the TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship.

To those considering applying, reach out to us today and share your journey, your goals, and your story. Your application is more than paperwork for us to go through; it is a dream a soldier has of home when they return, and we would like to offer what little we can to help you reach that dream.

The TonaLaw Veterans’ Scholarship awards $2500 annually to chosen applicants for the Spring semester. Applications are accepted until the 30th of November, and winners are announced in December.

The program is open exclusively to veterans of any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States currently studying at an accredited school or who will begin studies at an accredited school within six months of the scholarship application.

The program is open to applicants of any race, gender, national origin, and religion. Winners are chosen by a selection committee and are not influenced by any criteria besides the application requirements and the evaluation of the essay submitted by the applicant.

Thank you for your interest, and again, thank you for your service.

What Our Clients Are Saying

TonaLawExcellentTonaLaw5.0 Based on 396 reviews fromSee all reviews review us onRose FrancisqueRose Francisque ★★★★★ Kj MuchKj Much ★★★★★ The whole team has been extremely passionate, caring and understanding thru this whole process. This was a first for me. The firm came highly recommended thank you Ralph.Special thanks to Jayda a Ana. Thanks again.RONZA DIGIORGIORONZA DIGIORGIO ★★★★★ I was referred to Tona law by a friend following a horrific accident. Mr. Tona himself called me immediately from his family vacation and set me up with a team of professional , caring people that guided me through my recovery every step of the way. I would give 10 stars if i could !Muhammad KhanMuhammad Khan ★★★★★ Jayda and laureen are so nice and professional and they really helped me from start to finish and they always respond me back. Please get help from tonalaw if you need any in regards to accidents. ThanksRoxana PachecoRoxana Pacheco ★★★★★ My father, seek them out for a case in December and Ana has been fantastic. Ana has reassured all his concerns and has been nothing but amazing with any follow up questions that we have had. Besides being very compassionate, and friendly she’s also bilingual! Definitely would recommend anyone to TonaLaw!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your review! We're thrilled to hear about your positive experience with Ana and how she has been able to address all of your concerns with care and professionalism. We sincerely appreciate your recommendation and are here for any further assistance you might need. Best wishes from the TonaLaw team! Anthal ArizagaAnthal Arizaga ★★★★★ Penelope is so helpful and very easy to talk too, I’d recommended this law firm to anyone who is involved in an accident! You will be taken care of!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your wonderful review and recommendation! David KesslerDavid Kessler ★★★★★ Excellent law firm. Top notch attorneys and the friendliest receptionist Robin who was my first contact with the firm and her reception of me made me feel that I had made the right decision in finding a firm with people who really cared about meVanessa LopezVanessa Lopez ★★★★★ I have known Lauren for years and can confidently say, she goes above and beyond for her clients. She is always willing to help and go the extra mile and it is so very appreciated!Response from the ownerVanessa, thank you so much for this wonderful review! Julee HutchisonJulee Hutchison ★★★★★ I was given the opportunity to create and produce a newsletter for TonaLaw. Juliet Accomando directed the project and I found the whole experience to be very professional and well organized. Juliet was receptive to design ideas, responsive to emails and appreciative of our working relationship. It was a pleasure to work with TonaLaw. I look forward to future projects.Response from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to leave such a fantastic review! We are thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the experience of creating the newsletter for TonaLaw. We truly appreciate your kind words about Juliet as well. We are equally excited about our upcoming projects! Marina DelfelMarina Delfel ★★★★★ Tona Law has been wonderful and so, so easy to work with! The entirety of my time working with them, their team has been extremely professional, kind and dedicated! I am so happy to have gotten to work with such an amazing team!Response from the ownerWe're incredibly grateful for your kind words about your experience working with Tona Law. Thank you so much Marina! Lydia KaboolianLydia Kaboolian ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for your review! Karen RadoslovichKaren Radoslovich ★★★★★ My interactions with Janira have been wonderful! She's always upbeat, knowledgeable, 100% approachable....and thinking out of the box. I look forward to working with her on many future projects.Response from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to share your positive experience with Janira! We're thrilled to hear that your interactions with her have been wonderful. Your kind words mean a lot to us and motivate us to keep exceeding expectations. Robert J McCarrollRobert J McCarroll ★★★★★ Everything I've had to do with the firm is positive. Everyone at Tona Law has always been a pleasure to work with and very prompt and professional. I look forward to serving them again!Response from the ownerThank you for leaving such a wonderful review about our team. We appreciate your kind words! Daniel FeimanDaniel Feiman ★★★★★ Everyone at Tona Law is great to work with. I enjoy all of our interactions.Response from the ownerThank you so much for your kind words! We truly appreciate you taking the time to leave us a review, and it means a lot to hear that you enjoy our interactions. Ed AlexanderEd Alexander ★★★★★ Tom is a great lawyer, but more importantly, Tom is a relatable person. My friend and colleague for over a decade, I’ve watched his dynamic entrepreneurial take-charge style develop a hard charging firm with a supportive culture and a team that does excellent work, achieves great results, and truly cares about clients. Tom’s energy is contagious – I always get a boost when I spend time with him. I highly recommend Tona Law.Response from the ownerEd, thank you so much for this amazing review. Your recognition of our hard work means the world to us especially because we pride ourselves on our client care and results. We appreciate your recommendation! MJPT-1MJPT-1 ★★★★★ Working with TonaLaw has been a wonderful experience. The kind staff which I am very pleased with is always professional and attentive. I highly recommend!Response from the ownerYour kind words about our team truly warm our hearts! We strive to provide a professional and attentive experience for every client, and it's so rewarding to know we're succeeding. Thank you for choosing TonaLaw and for the wonderful recommendation! Mitchell YorkMitchell York ★★★★★ Tom Tona and all the professionals at Tona Law have a deep commitment for fighting for what’s right. The firm is relentlessly focused on their clients’ cases, as a matter of empathy and professional pride. The company is process driven and disciplined in everything they do.Response from the ownerThank you for your wonderful 5-star review! Your acknowledgment of our dedication and disciplined approach truly means a lot to us. We remain committed to delivering the best for our clients and are grateful for your trust and support. Vanessa VajkoVanessa Vajko ★★★★★ TonaLaw has an amazing scholarship program opportunity for fellow veterans and incredibly kind people to talk with! The application process was also fairly prompt and seamless. I am so grateful for this scholarship and highly recommend that other veterans get on board with applying. Thank you again!!! :)Response from the ownerThank you for applying to our scholarship and for sharing your experience! It is a pleasure to be able to assist you in your education journey. Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful review and thank you for your service! Jennifer CaceresJennifer Caceres ★★★★★ I highly recommend using tonalaw. Lauren and Jada are amazing. Any questions or concerns I had they answered. I am happy I choose tonalaw .Response from the ownerThank you so much for your review Jennifer! We are so glad to hear that you were pleased with our responsiveness and thoroughness in addressing your questions and concerns. Your feedback is invaluable to us, and we are committed to providing our clients with the best possible legal representation. Thank you again for your kind words. We are honored to have you as a client. Carlos UmanaCarlos Umana ★★★★★ Excelente atención buena comunicación contestan mis preguntas con sinceridadResponse from the ownerThank you so much for your review Carlos! Your feedback is invaluable to us, and we will continue to strive to provide you and all of our customers with the outstanding service you deserve. Yanira Del ValleYanira Del Valle ★★★★★ Mr. Tona is such a wonderful human and attorney. So helpful, without a second thought, he shares his knowledge and experience. He helps makes this Plaintiff community a better one. Thank you!!!Response from the ownerThank you Yanira! It was so great meeting you. Marvin SortoMarvin Sorto ★★★★★ TonaLaw is a very reputable firm. Ana is such a great asset to the firm. She is also bilingual with many years of experienceResponse from the ownerThank you for your kind words Marvin! gary gundersengary gundersen ★★★★★ I’ve been to tona law several times already and I’ve had the pleasure to deal with Ana both time and she was amazing. Made sure all paperwork was in order and is super thorough with everything. Highly recommendedResponse from the ownerThank you so much for taking the time to share your positive experience with us at Tona Law. We are so glad to hear that you were pleased with the services provided by Ana. We are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality legal representation, and we are always striving to exceed expectations. Jennifer PorterJennifer Porter ★★★★★ Tom Tona puts so much emphasis and effort into developing a fantastic law firm, delivering excellent results for their clients and also staying at the forefront of law firm management skills. I am super impressed by my conversation and interaction with Tom and am happy to recommend him!Response from the ownerJennifer, thank you so much for this wonderful review. We are delighted to hear that you were impressed with your conversation and interaction with Tom. We strive to provide a positive and supportive experience for all of our clients, and we are so glad to hear you had such a positive interaction with Mr. Tona. Thank you again for your kind words. Janet SowinskiJanet Sowinski ★★★★★ Lauren, one of the paralegals at Tona Law is very knowledgeable, compassionate and very professional. She genuinely cares for her clients and is always willing to go the extra mile to help. Having known her for several years, i can confidently recommend both Lauren and Tona Law to anyone seeking great assistance.Carmen SandovalCarmen Sandoval ★★★★★ Quiero darles las gracias por haberme representado en mi caso, felizmente estos abogados lograron ganar ni caso, y estoy muy satisfecha por su gran trabajo, hablan español y la señorita Ana es muy atenta y cordial y amable con sus clientes, muchisinas gracias x sus servicios ademas de ser rapidos, nos ayudan mucho especialmente a las personas qué sólo hablamos español, les recomiendo este servicio de abogados muy honestos. Muchas gracias👌😘Miguel MenaMiguel Mena ★★★★★ Ana is extremely knowledgeable and a great asset to your firm! Definitely will be coming back.Sandie RivasSandie Rivas ★★★★★ Ana is amazing! Working with her was extremely enjoyable. She is a great asset to Tonalaw and always eager to help!Darwin RomeroDarwin Romero ★★★★★ Ana was an absolute pleasure. She was incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful throughout the entire process. Highly recommend!Emma SortoEmma Sorto ★★★★★ Ana is a wonderful personal. She is very talented and very hardworking. Best thing is that she is bilingual! Always willing to help anyone who is in need of a hand! You are in great hands at Tona Law!nicole garcianicole garcia ★★★★★ Couldn’t recommend Lauren more!!! I’ve known Lauren for years, she is a dedicated, hard worker and is so professional when it comes to her job. She really cares about her clients and doing the best for them.Dolceprincipessa xoDolceprincipessa xo ★★★★★ I highly recommend Will Ramos as a lawyer. He is a true professional. He explained my options with me and was very accessible & kept me updated! I also had the pleasure of working with Jayden. She was great as well. They assisted with my case and helped me tremendously! Highly recommend :)yessenia lopez ramosyessenia lopez ramos ★★★★★ I have know Attorney Will Ramos for many years. He is very detail oriented, a great advocate, and an empathetic individual.I have referred a few clients during their time of need over to Will and the friendly staff at Tona Law. He is willing to go above and beyond for others.CARLOS RODRIGUEZCARLOS RODRIGUEZ ★★★★★ I have known Will Ramos for 15 plus years and can attest to his character in placing the needs for others above his own. He is an asset to any organization and a team player with positive attitude.Jessica MalaveJessica Malave ★★★★★ I’ve known attorney Will Ramos for 16 years he always places the needs of others above his own. He is a caring man and super understanding and has a big heart.Bianca RamosBianca Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is awesome the law firm is lucky to have someone like him part of their team. He genuinely cares for others and is always willing to lend a helping hand.Response from the ownerBianca, thank you for leaving a wonderful review for our firm. We are lucky to have Will Ramos as part of our team! Arianna RamosArianna Ramos ★★★★★ Attorney Will Ramos is nothing short of dedicated and hard working. Each case he works on demonstrates his passion for law and his care for his clients.Response from the ownerThank you for your review, Arianna! Will Ramos has been a wonderful asset to our team. JenneferJennefer ★★★★★ I've had the pleasure of knowing Lauren for quite a while now, and I must say, her dedication to her clients is truly remarkable. She takes immense pride in her work as a professional she seamlessly balances her role at Tona Law, where she's involved in legal matters. Having seen her commitment and skill firsthand, I can confidently recommend both Lauren and Tona Law to anyone seeking top-notch assistance.Celine Aubry-DumandCeline Aubry-Dumand ★★★★★ I had a great experience working with TonaLaw.The team was really friendly and helpful throughout the entire process.Response from the ownerCeline, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review for our firm. We are so grateful we were able to help you and provide you with a great experience. Thank you! Adam OmallyAdam Omally ★★★★★ I have known Lauren one of the paralegals at Tona law for many years and she is dedicated to her profession and helping her clients. Wonderful person.Alexandra RandazzoAlexandra Randazzo ★★★★★ Lauren at TonaLaw was extremely helpful! She was so nice and professional. I highly recommend asking for her!Margaret CaschettaMargaret Caschetta ★★★★★ I have known Lauren for a long time and she’s always been dedicated to her job! Excellent at anything she’s ever done.NICOLE GUASTONICOLE GUASTO ★★★★★ Lauren’s great- reliable empathetic the whole package - years of knowing her I wouldn’t ask for anyone elseKeith MaederKeith Maeder ★★★★★ I have known Lauren, one of the paralegals, for many years. Her client first approach is second to none. She is knowledgeable and professional. She as an asset to both her clients and Tona Law.Emily PadillaEmily Padilla ★★★★★ Ana was super professional and very polite! Answered all the questions that was needed! Highly recommend, wish I can give 10 stars!Kailynn ApolinarisKailynn Apolinaris ★★★★★ Ana is amazing! As an old coworker I can say Ana is always ready to assist. She is a great asset to anyone lucky enough to work with her.Response from the ownerKailynn, thank you for leaving a wonderful review for our firm. Ana is truly a wonderful part of our team! peter alsenpeter alsen ★★★★★ In all of my dealings with the TonaLaw office, the lawyers and staff have been excellent.They have earned my confidence and trust.Response from the ownerWe are so pleased to hear that you’ve had such a great experience with our team. Your confidence and trust in our firm is greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for your review! Ashley VelazquezAshley Velazquez ★★★★★ Ana was knowledgeable, courteous & helpful throughout everything! She was willing to go the extra mile! It was a delight working with her. You’re in great hands when working with Ana!!Patty RivasPatty Rivas ★★★★★ The team is fantastic. I worked with Ana directly and appreciated how quickly she was able to respond back to me and provide efficient, excellent results. I would work with her again!Response from the ownerThank you so much for your kind words about Ana and the rest of our team! Patricia WernerPatricia Werner ★★★★★ Ana was phenomenal. What a great asset to Tona Law!js_loader