Eleven seniors in the NJROTC program at Oak Harbor High School have been awarded more than $3 million in Army, Navy and Air Force scholarships, a record amount for the program.
To qualify, the students engaged in a rigorous two-year process that involved being an active member of NJROTC, earning high grades and test scores, meeting physical fitness requirements, participating in volunteer and extracurricular activities and committing to military service after graduating from college. The process was mentored by Cmdr. Vincent Quidachay, senior naval science instructor at Oak Harbor High School.
NJROTC, which stands for Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, is a citizenship and leadership program that encourages students to be informed and involved citizens of the United States. Oak Harbor High School’s NJROTC program had over 236 active cadets in the 2022-23 school year, the largest cohort in the program’s history at the school.
Thinalyn Ramier received $200,000 from the Army to attend Texas Christian University. She plans to study engineering with a biomedical focus. Raimer, who is also a student board member, said she enjoys NJROTC because of the strong sense of community it’s given her.
“I went into it thinking I was just going to do it for one year,” she said. “…But I eventually fell in love with it, the leadership style, the things that I’ve learned throughout the program. That’s why I kept with it.”
Kai Medina received $200,000 from the Navy to attend the University of New Mexico to pursue a civil engineering degree. Medina said he enjoyed the program because upperclassmen in the program gave him a lot of advice when he first joined as a freshman.
Jaedine Cabigiting received $135,000 from the Army to attend the University of Washington, where she will study nursing. Cabigiting said she likes NJROTC because of the life skills she has learned such as initiative, teamwork and leadership.
Medina explained that the scholarship process began April 1 of their junior year. He said the requirements were demanding and included a physical fitness test. Each branch of the military has slightly different physical requirements.
Kyle Eckles received $135,000 from the Army to attend Texas A&M University. He wants to major in ecology and conservation. Eckles said he had to complete one minute of push ups and sit ups and a one and a half mile run. He also completed the Marine Corps test, which requires a three-mile run and as many pull ups as one can do.
“It was a pretty intense test,” he said.
Community service was another important requirement to win the scholarship. Raimer said she thought every single one of the NJROTC seniors completed over 300 hours of community service in the school year.
The program completes beach and highway cleanups on the island and has volunteered with the VFW and the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
All of the students expressed relief that most, if not all, of their college education is now paid for. When Medina found out he was a winner, Quidachay called Medina’s parents on speaker phone in front of the whole NJROTC class to tell them the good news. Both of his parents cried.
“It gets pretty emotional for most families,” Medina said. “We all knew we wanted to have an education after high school. Most of us really had no means of paying for college.”
Raimer said she also cried when she heard the news.
Medina said trying to rebuild the NJROTC program after the pandemic was a struggle on its own.
“The rebuilding era was just very mentally challenging on most of us,” he said. “And then having the scholarship application on top of that was just daunting.”
These seniors can now be sure that all their hard work has paid off.