Rupal Thanawala

Rupal Thanawala

If you want to pursue a four-year college education with a scholarship and continue your athletics, take a look at the military academies or ROTC programs. 

Meet Blair Milo. She has worked at the Pentagon on the U.S. Navy’s Stealth Destroyer DDG-1000 and led a large team of sailors as a warfare officer on the USS Mason and Destroyer Squadron 50. She was the youngest woman mayor of La Porte, and she is the state of Indiana's first secretary of career connections and talent, where she is working to fill an estimated one million job openings over the next 10 years. She is used to being the first one to build and lead new challenging assignments. She thanks her rigorous naval training for her successful career trajectory. Blair always wanted to be a naval officer, so she joined the Purdue Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program and then to her deployments in various parts of the world as an officer.

It is a well-kept secret that all the military officer training programs, whether through ROTC or Service Academy, have scholarship programs that may cover your four-year degree program and a guaranteed job in the military. You can choose one of the branches — Army, Navy or Air Force. These programs provide leadership development, military skills and career training with curriculums offered in the classroom and the fields. After the retirement of five years of mandatory service, the military placement service assists them in securing corporate jobs or guide them for higher education. Many large corporations and government agencies have veteran recruitment and veteran business partnership programs. Over 17,000 colleges and universities offer ROTC programs where students can choose coursework and have regular college experience. A few colleges in Indiana offering ROTC programs are IU Bloomington, Purdue University, Ball State University, Vincennes University, Valparaiso University, IUPUI and so on.

Eddie Rivers Jr. is president and CEO of Esource Resources, where he is leading a multimillion tech enterprise serving Fortune 500 companies globally. Rivers, an outstanding athlete in high school and a straight A student considered many prestigious schools to play sports. His guidance counselor suggested he consider the U.S. Military Academy West Point, which was the most significant turning point in his life. Rivers graduated in the historic 1980 class, where he was one of the handful of African American officers along with first graduating class of women officers from the Army, Naval and Air Force academies. Eddie manages a hectic professional career and serves on multiple community service organizations, including West Point liaison officer. He wants to pay it forward and mentor youth to study at the U.S. Army academy, play sports and serve the country. Everyone at the Service Academy is an Athlete and study STEM programs. Over the years, the academies have put in significant effort in recruiting minority candidates, whereas 25%-28% cadets are people of color, and 20%-25% cadets are women. In the graduating class of 2024 at West Point, 38 cadets are Black females.

The U.S. Army Military Academy is in West Point, New York, the Naval Academy is in Annapolis, Maryland, the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Coast Guard Academy is in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy is in Kings Point, New York. The admission requirements for all these academies are more or less similar. The applicants are ranked in the top 20% of their class, have well above average SAT or ACT scores, perhaps attended Hoosier Boys or Girls State, or are an Eagle Scout. They are driven to excel both academically and athletically and are involved in numerous extracurricular activities. Additionally, they must receive a nomination from their congressman or senator, pass a strenuous physical fitness test, and a strong desire to lead, serve, and protect our great nation.

Like many others, I was also unaware of these programs until my youngest son, Rahil, decided to go to West Point. He is among 27 Indiana cadet candidates heading to West Point on July 12. I would advise prospective candidates to start researching no later than the beginning of sophomore year in high school. For example, Jayden Seaton is a smart, confident and a service-minded freshman at University High School who has already started assessing his options at Air Force, Navy, and Army academies. He is a talented basketball player with a deep passion for computer programming. I can see him being a fighter jet pilot at the Air Force or join a cybersecurity squad to protect our nation. 

If you are ready to commit, there are lots of options to fulfill your dreams. With any of the programs, you can pick any career track. Just to list a few – engineering, legal, business management, nursing, medicine, finance, chemist, computer scientists, and so on. Did I mention that you can now be a space cadet by joining newly formed Space Force?

If you need more information, speak to your Guidance Counselor or connect with field liaison officers at college and career day at your high schools. Helpful resources — www.westpoint.edu, www.usna.edu, www.usafa.edu, www.uscga.edu, www.usmma.edu, www.todaysmilitary.com

www.spaceforce.mil.

Rupal Thanawala is managing director at Trident Systems leading business and technology consulting practice, and tech editor for Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at rupalt@indyrecorder.com.

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