Austin High School students Eric Abney, Shawn Cleary and Jaquala Couch are recipients of Navy ROTC scholarships in the collective amount of $540,000. They earned the scholarships based on their SAT scores, written essays, community service, extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations. Abney will attend Yale University, Cleary will attend the U.S. Naval Academy, and Couch received a NROTC scholarship to attend Texas A&M University. Both Abney and Cleary were also appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy.
“It is quite an honor to see the results of our labor,” said Lieutenant Commander Edwin R. Sellards, Senior Naval Science Instructor at Austin High School. “It is always our hope and dream that our students will go on to college and eventually serve our great country.” Sellards credits the school’s principal, faculty and staff, and parents for the students’ success at earning the Navy ROTC scholarships.
The three AHS students have impressive academic backgrounds, which were contributing factors in being awarded scholarships.
Cleary holds the rank of Commander/Lieutenant Commander and is the Cadet Commanding Officer of Austin’s JROTC unit. He also served as Captain of the Navy JROTC College Bowl Foundation Academic Championship Team (June 2011), Air Rifle Team Commander (junior and senior year), and Academic Team Commander (junior year). In addition, the Eagle Scout earned 4th place nationwide in Secnav Air Rifle Championship in 2012, 11th place navy wide in the 2012 JROTC National Air Rifle Championship. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Area 10 Leadership Academy, a 2011 Texas Boys’ State graduate and a 2011 Navy Stem graduate.
Cleary admits that all of his hard work in school has paid off. “I can safely say that, yes, I have a plan for college, and I have something to show for the work I’ve done over the years. There were times when certain obstacles got in my way, but overcoming them is part of being a good leader. You can’t always wave the white flag when something gets tough.”
Couch also found the ROTC program to be challenging at times. “At the beginning, I worried about lasting the four years because I had never been involved in a military program,” said Couch. “But as time passed, I knew I had made the right choice.”
Couch has an equally impressive JROTC background and holds rank of Commanding Lieutenant and Cadet Operations Officer of Austin’s JROTC unit. She has served as Unarmed Drill Team Commander (junior and senior year) and her leadership efforts resulted in her unit entering competition at Area 10 Navy JROTC Championship Drill Meet at Texas A&M University both years. She is a 2010 Area 10 Leadership Academy Graduate, a 2011 Texas Girls’ State Graduate and has been a member of the Academic and PT Team for the past three years.
Abney is the only one among the three who is not involved in Austin’s JROTC program. He is a member of Austin’s baseball team and plays tenor saxophone for the school band. He is also an Eagle Scout, and a member of Student Council and the National Honor Society. Abney applied for the scholarship on the advice of his father, who happens to be a Vietnam veteran.
“I can recall having a discussion regarding college with my dad as a sophomore in high school,” said Abney. “I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take, but my dad suggested I consider a military career. I thought it was a good idea, especially knowing it would give me the opportunity to give back to my country that has given so greatly to me.”
“The accomplishments of these scholars not only demonstrate the outstanding Navy JROTC program at Austin High School, but that students are taking advantage of the military programs that are available to outstanding high school graduates,” said MAC(SW) Barbara A. Vasquez, NROTC Coordinator, Navy Recruiting District Houston.
Following their military training, Cleary would like to focus on aviation and become a pilot; Couch wants to become a Surface Warfare officer; and Abney would like to pursue a career in Surface Warfare or Foreign Relations. Given their impressive track records, these young scholars will certainly be forces to reckon with.