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Kofa High School alumna receives NROTC scholarship

Kofa High School Class of 2022 alumna, Nolani Jones, is the firstNolani Jones Yuma Union High School District student since 2011 to receive the prestigious Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship. The scholarship is worth up to $180,000 and will pay for her entire tuition at Oregon State University. She plans to major in psychology. 

“I just feel like all my efforts have been recognized because I've just been working really hard,” Jones said, “I was at school at 6 a.m. every day my whole four years. Finally, all that work is being seen.”

Every year, around 9,300 high school students apply for the scholarship, and only about 2,500 are chosen. The last YUHSD student to win was Cibola High School’s Jon Smith (Class of 2011), who attended Arizona State University. 

Jones was heavily involved in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC) program at Kofa and was part of the school’s drill team, physical training (P.T.) team, and color guard. She also participated in varsity swim and track.

“Jones was a different caliber,” Kofa MCJROTC Instructor Maj. Todd Birney said. “She enjoyed the program. She flourished in it. She was a big influence on our program.”

Once Jones was offered the scholarship, she was required to take part in a demanding two-week boot camp, called New Student Indoctrination (NSI), in Great Lakes, Illinois, where the newly enlisted sailors have their recruit training.  

“I came into the JROTC program knowing that I wanted to be in the military whether I went to college first or not,” Jones said. “I knew I was going to be in the military.”

Jones is now a midshipman fourth class after graduating from NSI. Once she receives her Bachelor’s Degree, she is going to commission and become a Surface Warfare Officer for five years. She plans to continue in the Navy after the required five years to become a Navy psychologist and help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or complete the master’s psychology program in the Navy.

“[Sgt Maj Colen Laarman] and I couldn't be prouder and we know that she's going to do good things,” Maj. Birney said. “She has a good head on her shoulders.”

The Kofa JROTC program, which is overseen by Sgt Maj. Colen Laarman and Maj. Birney, has earned numerous awards and recognitions over the past several years, including recently placing fourth in the MCJROTC national academic bowl, and is recognized as a prestigious Naval Honors School. Jones earning the first NROTC scholarship among students in the program is yet another accolade to add to their impressive list. 

Lesley Avila