Service is a word synonymous with kindness, care and cooperation. Service means a great deal in the lives of three seventeen-year-old Vista Ridge High School seniors: Cailey Grimball, Andrew Delaney and Sarah Stout. Grimball is a Cadet Lieutenant Commander and the Commanding Officer of the Lone Star Company, Delaney is a Cadet Lieutenant and the Executive Officer of the Lone Star Company and Stout is a Cadet Senior Chief Petty Officer and Senior Chief of the Lone Star Company.
The three art part of a group of 115 students under the direction of Commander Rick Hamblet, Senior Naval Science Instructor and a retired member of the U.S. Coast Guard at Vista Ridge’s Naval Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“The program has been one of the most beneficial things in my life so far,” said Delaney. “When I came in freshman year, I was very unsure of what I wanted to do in the future. I didn’t really have any set foundation of work ethic, moral responsibility or self-confidence. The program has really helped me to develop skills in public speaking and being able to fully express myself… This program takes kids and puts them back out into the world as outstanding citizens. When you’re out in your other classes, your taking the things you’ve learned here like responsibility and dedication to your work.”
“It kind of throws you out of your comfort zone because I was this quiet person,” added Stout. “It teaches you leadership and responsibility. It gave me a place to be and a sense of who I am.”
“Originally, I was only going to do a year, just to see how it was,” explained Grimball. “I got really involved from freshman year to now. ROTC has pushed me to do better in my other organizations as well. I’m in YMCA Youth and Government and I was president for two years. It would just help me when I would have to get up in front of people to talk about a bill I’m writing about and things like that. It’s made me more independent, responsible and, it’s over such a great program. I recommend anyone to try it for at least one year just to see how it feels. You build great friendships and get a lot of community service in which feels awesome.”
LISD’s NJROTC program was launched ten years ago and has since completed nearly 6,000 community service hours. The team participates in community events such as the Special Olympics and Lights of Love.
“Ten years is a milestone by any measure,” said Hamblet. “I am proud to be at the helm of a program that supports the future goals, dreams, and ambitions of LISD students. The program continues to evolve to meet the varying needs of its students and a growing district. While it is nice to reflect on past accomplishments, our focus remains on the future and with providing opportunities for every member of our program to grow as individuals.”
The program offers eight different competitive activity teams at the school including unarmed drill, armed drill, color guard, CyberPatriot, academic, physical fitness, air rifle and orienteering.
“The program does provide a sense of belonging for students who have not otherwise participated in sports or other activities but are looking for something in high school that’s new,” said Hamblet. “My goals remain the same and those are to instill in students the values of citizenship, service, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment. We are a unique program in that the Navy JROTC curriculum offers its students both a college AND a CTE career path with special benefits and scholarship opportunities reserved exclusively for Navy JROTC participants.
Four cadets earned a $200,000 Navy ROTC scholarship, three of which were awarded to seniors Brendan Davies, Rebecca Kirby and Kenneth Smith to attend Texas A&M University. The fourth scholarship is for senior Jeremy Stahn to attend Huston-Tillotson and cross-enroll at UT-Austin for the NROTC program. The scholarships are unique in that Navy JROTC curriculum offers its students both a college and a CTE career path.
The LISD NJROTC program also earned the “Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors” designation. Given to the top 30 percent of units in the area, the selection is based on academic performance, military proficiency and overall host school support.
In addition, the Air Rifle Team finished 6th at the NJROTC State Air Rifle state championship, while the CyberPatriot Team advanced to the national semi-finals of the international CyberPatriot competition.