NROTC scholarship awarded to Alabama native
By Staff Sgt. Bryce R. Piper
| | May 30, 2002
6TH MARINE CORPS DISTRICT, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
She's an unassuming young lady, soft spoken when first introduced, bright eyed with a ready smile like so many other 17-year-olds. What you learn when you talk to her though, is that this young lady from Pine Hill, Ala., is on her game. This high-school-graduate scholar, poet, sports leader and volunteer worker has plans. Some day she will be an officer of Marines.
Stephanie Knight is the only student in Alabama who earned and accepted the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship this year through the Marine Corps. She will receive up to $85,000 as part of a full four-year tuition accepted at more than sixty colleges and universities, compensation for textbooks, fees and uniforms, a monthly subsistence allowance of up to $250, and an unparalleled level of experience. Upon graduation from college and successful completion of the requirements, Knight will be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
"The military's always interested me because I have a lot of friends in the Army," Knight said, "and they tell me how they get to travel and how much fun it is. The Marine's recruiter actually came to my school. Two of my classmates had already signed up. They told me really interesting things. I went to the (Delayed Entry Program monthly) functions and they were really fun, actually competing against my peers, running and exercising."
"One thing that appealed to me was that you keep physically fit in the Marines," she said. "That's one thing I plan on doing."
Knight said her family moved to the crossroads known as Pine Hill when she was four. Since then, she's been busy. A consummate athlete, she served as captain of the Sweetwater Bulldogs basketball team, co-captain of the softball team, and enjoyed other sports as well. As a sophomore, she played saxophone in the band and served on the letter corps. She also volunteered to help her community.
"I do a lot of volunteer work," said Knight, "mostly through the school student government association. We've done community pride service where we would go out and clean up the neighborhood. And we've done pride awareness day where we planted trees and flowers. I participated in a muscular dystrophy event for Jerry's Kids where we sold shamrocks. Every Christmas, we went to the nursing homes in Linden and Thomasville; we went to Demopolis one year. We'd bring fruit and sing songs, interact with the elderly residents," she said.
Her well-rounded experience helped her get accepted for the scholarship, according to Capt. Ronald J. Peterson, executive officer of Recruiting Station Montgomery, Ala. Consideration for the scholarship requires more than just good grades and athleticism, according to Peterson. The Marine Corps looks for young leaders in the community, young men and women with the potential to be leaders of Marines, he said.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens between 17 and 21 years old with their high school diploma or equivalent who meet the strict physical requirements of the Marine Corps.
They must complete NROTC and commissioning requirements and have no moral or personal conviction that will prevent conscientiously bearing arms.
"Setting and maintaining these goals are not simply requirements, they're not a 'check in the box,'" said Maj. Mark E. Costello, commanding officer, RS Montgomery. "This program is designed to mold mature, competent leaders. When students set, meet and even achieve beyond these goals, they earn education, skills and experience far above and beyond their peers. When an educator informs his students of this option, he opens doors for those students."
Knight said her parents stand behind her decision. "They support me 100%," she said. "They've always said to be sure you know what you're going into, know all the details of it" Of her weaknesses, Knight said she has a tendency to take things too far and do more than is required. "I hate giving up," she said. "I almost never give up on anything. I don't like asking for help either. That's probably one of my biggest faults, not being able to ask for help.
"But the Marines will probably see these "faults" as character strengths, according to Peterson. Tenacity and independence are qualities the Marine Corps teaches its Marines. If Knight already has an advantage there, she'll be more likely to excel, Peterson said.
Knight plans to go to college in the fall and will most likely attend Auburn University. As a member of the NROTC there, she will learn more about what it takes to be a leader of Marines. After graduation and Officer Candidate School, she'll learn if her tenacity and independence will carry her through a career as a leader in the world's finest military organization.
"I'm committed to being a Marine officer," she said.