As the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program at Spring High School wrapped up a banner year for its program, graduating seniors were honored and a new class of leadership was inducted at a Change of Command ceremony last week.
The event was open to parents and other supporters of NJROTC members, and doubled as a scholarship presentation for a pair of seniors who received scholarships from the US Navy.
Seniors Kayla McKay and Kenzlea Smith both received $200,000 each in funds from the US Navy, which will provide full tuition, stipends, summer training cruises, and more. The program is designed for future Naval Officers to enjoy a traditional college experience – fully paid – while also preparing for a future career in the US Navy.
McKay and Smith were the only seniors in Spring ISD to receive the scholarships.
“It’s a distinguished honor with a powerfully simple purpose: to train exceptional students for future military service, provide financing and opportunity for an outstanding college experience and to help you achieve your true potential,” retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Mark Clarke, Naval Science Instructor at Spring HS, said.
McKay is headed to Arizona State University for Mechanical Engineering, while Smith will be going to Texas A&M University for Electrical Engineering.
“It’s an honor to be able to go to college and be able to focus,” McKay said. “I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger and this is going to help me make that happen. Not only is this about me, but it’s about all the people who have supported me throughout it all — my mother, my unit, my family — they’ve always been here since the beginning.”
For Smith, earning the scholarship was a unique opportunity for her to attend college while also following her career goals.
“If it weren’t for this opportunity, college would not have been in the picture for me,” Smith said. “It took a lot of hard work, but with that hard work I have been able to accomplish my dreams. I’ve been wanting to go into the military since the 7th grade. So to be able to attend college and go into the military, it’s really a dream.”
The scholarship and Change of Command ceremony caps off a winning year, one that was full of accomplishments for the program.
The program was named a Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors for back-to-back school years, as well as ranked number eight out of nearly 60 NJROTC units in the area. In addition, a student from the program has won the Joseph C. Gilliam Awarded Academic National Academic Award for two years ina row, a national award with more than 1500 applicants. The program also placed first and second in an area marksmanship competition, third place in the Admiral Nimitz Classic physical fitness competition, third place in the Female Color Guard competition at the Andy Dekaney Drill, and third place in the Prairie View A&M Orienteering and Skills Meet.
For program instructor Clarke, those accomplishments are just a reflection of the value and the meaning of the NJROTC program in student lives.
“These kids represent the best of the best,” Clarke said. “Being one of the largest units in the country takes hard work. These cadets meet that challenge, year after year. The NJROTC program is here to encourage initiative and individuality in students, to develop those natural gifts, to teach self-control, develop personal character and responsibility, and foster qualities of integrity, loyalty, and dedication.”
The following program members have been selected as the leadership team for the 2022-2023 school year:
- Commanding Officer: Cadet Captain Carolina Viney
- Executive Officer: Cadet Commander Kaleb Ward
- Operations Officer: Cadet Lieutenant Commander Aidan Jordan
- Command Master Chief: Cadet Master Chief Petty Officer Noah O’Neal
- Administration Officer: Cadet Lieutenant Junior Grade Delilah Romero
- Supply Officer: Cadet Ensign Natalya Rivera
- Training Officer: Cadet Ensign Cassidy Layne
Educational Services Officer: Cadet Ensign Elizabeth Burroughs