Cadets in their uniforms with adults.
General Michael Kostelnik (Retired), Cadet Colonel Erik Sirmans, Cadet Major Kayla Browne, Cadet Colonel Dawn Kerlin, Cadet Colonel Mark Almazan, Cadet Colonel Kayla McCarthy, Cadet Colonel Paige Lettelleir, and Deputy Superintendent Steve Horton

County Cadets Corral College Cash at Eglin Event

In a special ceremony held at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base on Tuesday, May 16, six outstanding cadets from Okaloosa County high schools were recognized and awarded scholarships by the Eglin Air and Space Force Association (Eglin AFA). The event was attended by distinguished guests, including a representative from Congressman Matt Gaetz’s office, who presented each student with a certificate of special recognition.

The Eglin AFA scholarship committee selected the scholarship recipients, which reviewed and scored applications submitted by the cadets. The committee considered factors such as academic achievements and demonstrated leadership accomplishments within their Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) units.

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Among the recipients was Cadet Colonel Mark Almazan from Fort Walton Beach High School, who was awarded the $4,000 Cliff Long, Sr. Leadership Scholarship. Almazan has been accepted into the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) at the University of West Florida, where he will pursue a major in Business.

Fort Walton Beach High School’s Cadet Major Kayla Browne was presented with the $5,000 Maggie Hsu Scholarship. Browne has been accepted into the AFROTC at the University of Central Florida, where she will major in Aerospace Engineering. Similarly, Cadet Colonel Dawn Kerlin, also from Fort Walton Beach High School, received the $4,000 Jimmy Doolittle Scholarship and will pursue a Biochemistry major at the University of Central Florida.

Cadet Colonel Paige Lettelleir from Choctawhatchee High School was awarded the $4,000 Jimmy Nabors Memorial Scholarship. Lettelleir has been accepted into the AFROTC at the University of West Florida, where she plans to major in Biomedical Sciences. Meanwhile, Cadet Colonel Kayla McCarthy, a graduate of Navarre High School and currently an AFROTC cadet at the University of South Florida, received the $4,000 Colonel Douglas and Carol Hardin Memorial Scholarship. McCarthy is pursuing a major in Criminal Justice with a minor in Russian.

The final recipient, Cadet Colonel Erik Sirmans from Niceville High School, was granted the $5,000 General Bill Kirk Scholarship. Sirmans is currently considering his options for college attendance.

Adding to the significance of the ceremony, the Choctawhatchee High School JROTC Color Guard displayed the colors, while Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) Reginald Washington from Choctawhatchee High School captivated the audience with a moving rendition of the National Anthem.

The scholarships and awards presented to these exceptional JROTC cadets not only acknowledge their academic achievements but also recognize their demonstrated leadership and dedication to their units. The event served as an inspiring reminder of the incredible potential and promising future of these young individuals as they embark on their educational and military journeys.


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