More than 500 Lee County JROTC cadets received recognition and scholarships for their work in their school's JROTC programs. Lee County has the largest JROTC program in the nation.
The group's goal is to make sure each student has a plan for after high school. The program sees 99 percent of its cadets graduate and 54 percent go to college.
For one cadet, it's not just any college. Sara Perkins was awarded most outstanding cadet in Lee County. "Without that program, I'm not sure I would be who I am today."
Sara is part of a select group of high school seniors headed to the prestigious Naval Academy, where the acceptance rate is around only eight percent. The future nuclear engineer says, it's all thanks to the JROTC program. "I think it was the passion I had for the country and just serving our community in general, was really powerful."
Now, medals and other badges decorate the area commander's uniform. The Riverdale High senior's resume also lists swimming, basketball and lacrosse. This is in addition to wrapping up her dual enrollment for college credits at Florida Southwestern State College.
She says it's just all part of the process, "especially when it was trying to gain nominations from your congressman and your senators. Everyone who applies for those nominations is competitive."
Sebastian Domingo came to the JROTC at Dunbar High School in a less conventional way. At six years old, he immigrated with his family from Guatemala not knowing how to speak English or Spanish. "The only language I knew was my Guatemalan dialect, which no one here, would understand."
Sebastian says he likes adventure and is always up for a challenge, so he's decided to follow in his brother's footsteps. “He already graduated from FAMU and he's already commissioned second lieutenant. So he told me all about JROTC and ROTC and it just made my mind spark."
Sebastian is involved in just about every JROTC extra curricular activity, plays soccer and has a part time job. Sebastian says through the JROTC program, he's learned about team work and perseverance. "If it's easy, then everyone will do it. But it's hard. That's why people can't always accomplish it. So you just gotta face the challenge. Keep up your head, stay positive, don't let anything bring you down financially or emotionally. Just push as hard as you can."
The Calusa chapter of Military Officers Association is holding a golf tournament with all proceeds supporting their JROTC scholarship fund and program. That event will be held on May 18th at the Cape Royal Golf Club. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.