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AFJROTC cadets earn prestigious scholarships

Xavier Rico (left) and Joshua Yang (courtesy photo)

AFJROTC cadets earn prestigious scholarships

By Jill Alexander

While some high school seniors aren’t sure what their futures hold, a couple of cadets who are in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training (AFJROTC) Corps CA-935th unit at Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) certainly know.

Cadets Xavier Rico, 18, and Joshua Yang, 17, were recently selected to receive the prestigious J-100 scholarship which is awarded to only 100 cadets in the entire nation. This scholarship includes four years of 100 percent paid tuition at any university, a $10,000 per year allowance for housing and an annual stipend.

“There are a total of 180 cadets in the unit with nine senior staff members in charge of all of them,” said Keshav Srinivasan, the SRHS AFJROTC CA-935th public affairs commander and senior team leader.

Xavier Rico

Senior Cadet Rico is the deputy commander and second-in-command of the entire unit and senior staff in AFJROTC at SRHS.

“Me and Josh have similar stories,” Rico said. “Ever since I was young, I wanted to pursue a military career but didn’t know about Junior ROTC until my dad introduced me to it and said to try it out. I selected this specific program because it’s a nationally renowned institution.”

Rico added that at the time of joining four years ago, he didn’t know what service he wanted to be part of but learned a lot about the U.S. Air Force.

“I learned that it has a lot of great opportunities like the Chief of Staff Flight Academy Scholarship that made me want  to pursue a career in  the Air Force and pursue a mechanical engineering job or a pilot’s job,” he said.

Rico’s top choices for colleges include the Air Force Academy where he would pursue his career as an officer; or Purdue University which is known for its engineering program.

As for after college he is “debating on serving all 20 years until retirement or just going for four years via the scholarship and then becoming an engineer.”

Joshua Yang

Cadet Yang is the mission support commander and is in charge of the unit’s finance, scholarship opportunities, and unit safety and security in AFJROTC at SRHS.

“I joined the ROTC with no intention of joining the military four years ago but every year in it, I got more and more interested in joining the military. Every Monday we have guest speakers from all the military branches and our school is in an Air Force ROTC so, from then I knew I wanted to join the Air Force,” he said. 

After graduation, Yang’s top choice for college, if accepted, is to attend UCLA because it offers “a great ROTC program and is renowned for it.”

He hopes to become an engineer at UCLA and is “all set to go into the military, especially the Air Force.”

“I have heard good things at church and from people around me about it like the living conditions are nice and there are lots of opportunities to develop leadership skills,” Yang said. “My parents are also excited for me and very supportive.” 

To even be nominated to apply, the cadets were required to meet the following criteria: have at least a 3.0 unweighted GPA, a minimum of 22 on the ACT or 1,100 on the SAT, a 50 on the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, and two years of AFJROTC leadership experience.

Yang passed the fitness test with a score of 82 while Rico passed with a score of 92.

On top of the standard scholarship application requirements, essays and score updates, cadets had to pass the Air Force fitness test and submit multiple letters of recommendation. Both cadets passed the initial selection rounds and were also interviewed in front of a board of active-duty airmen from headquarters to reach the final selection phase.

To date, both have been accepted into the Air Force Academy and Yang has additionally been accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but the scholarship applies to any university they choose. The exact number of applicants is unknown, but there are 134 units worldwide that nominate cadets to apply for the scholarship.

“Greatness will only come if you truly believe in yourself and your abilities in achieving that goal,” said Ferdinand Toledo, MSgt, USAF (ret.), Aerospace Science instructor at SRHS, in describing these prestigious scholarships earned by these two cadets.