Taking hold of a lifetime opportunity
Heather Ptomey has high aspirations as a recent high school graduate and former Crook County NJROTC student.
Ptomey would ultimately like to go into criminology or criminal justice as a life goal, but she will immediately be enrolling in a Naval program to become a Commissioning Officer in the Navy.
She has already moved forward in her long-term goal, as she is a recipient of a Naval Scholarship for the University of Memphis. Ptomey just finished a three-week training to prepare her for the next step of being officially enrolled as a freshman at the program.
She flew out on July 1, 2019, and arrived at the Chicago Airport, followed by a 30-minute bus ride to Great Lakes Naval Base.
"It was a really good experience for me and for everyone there, because we learned so much and there were so many people there to ask questions," said Ptomey. "I got to meet a lot of really cool people."
There was a lot of class time and trainings, Including firefighting, 9 mm qualifications, ship replication to learn about naval and communication skills, swim qualifications, physical readiness tests, physical training, marching, and drill competitions.
"We even learned how to do hospital corners," she said with a smile.
Ptomey emphasized that the experience involved a great deal of teamwork and communication skills.
"I enjoyed it," she said. "It was difficult, but if you mentally just stuck with it, you could push through it."
Ptomey joined Crook County High School NJROTC her junior year in high school. What she liked best were the connections and relationships with the students in the class. She met a lot of new friends.
"I really enjoyed being in that class."
She learned some valuable things from the program, including information on what kinds of options were available after high school.
"I didn't even know there was something such as trade schools going into my junior year," she recalled.
Ptomey learned a lot about work ethic, honesty and integrity from Naval Science instructors Scott Svoda, Donny Jackson and Russ Robison. Applying for scholarships during their senior year is always heavily encouraged, and a new scholarship became available this school year.
The Presidential NROTC Preparatory Scholarship was brought to her attention around the first part of her second semester of her senior year. She said that getting the training early was good, because it is required before commissioning as an officer.
Scott Svoda, Naval Science Teacher at Crook County High School, indicated that former instructor Russ Robison initiated the scholarship for Ptomey, and he carried the project through to the end.
"Good on him for getting it off the ground."
NROTC Preparatory Program (NPP) allows NJROTC students to come into the potential 5-year program.
The university pays for the first year, and assuming the student does well, the Navy picks up the next four years, giving a total of five years.
"What they have learned over the years is that the success rate of those students who were hand-selected for this scholarship was not very good," said Svoda. "Now that they have got one year under their belt with this program, they have a much better success rate."
Applicants must have an intention of commissioning as an officer in the US Navy. They also must meet physical requirements, have their high school diploma, and be accepted for admission as a full-time student at the University of Memphis. The applicants must pass the Navy's Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA), achieve a minimum cumulative of 2.8 GPA or higher in high school, and receive the University of Memphis endorsement.
Once their preparatory year is complete, the student automatically picks up a four-year NJROTC Scholarship if they meet the conditions set out by the University of Memphis. Ptomey will receive one year's tuition from University of Memphis, while participating in their NJROTC program. During this year, the students wear the same uniforms as all NJROTC midshipmen and participate in the same events.
Ptomey indicated that it was a good option for students who haven't scored as high in their SAT score to qualify for regular NROTC scholarships. They are, however, looking for students who are well-rounded in sports, community service and academics.
Tuition, books and fees are paid for in this program. Students also have $5,000 paid toward room and board.
"Some of the universities are honoring that for the remainder of their time at the school," indicated Svoda.
He added that in the past, the ROTC scholarships did not include room and board. The amount of schools who are taking advantage of the new program has doubled in the last year.
"Every one of these (students) are working toward a commission," said Svoda. "It's not for everyone; it's for those who want to go that route in life."
After freshman year, there are four-week cruise trainings in the summer, with a different training each week. The various trainings are broken into one week each, and include aviation, submarines, surface warfare on ships and marine training.
"That basically allows students to see what they might want to go into after they graduate, like a job shadow," Ptomey said. "Each week, they get to job shadow someone to learn what their job looks like."
During each school year, they gain more leadership positions to build their leaderships skills. Their senior year, they commission as an officer.
She made the decision to try for the scholarship the beginning of her senior year. She had been looking into the process of enlisting and serving her country,
"I thought this was a great way to serve my country and be able to go to school and get an education, because however long I decide to stay in the military I will have an education to do something else and experience things."
On Aug. 17, Ptomey will fly out to University of Memphis, Tennessee. She will move on Aug. 19, and on Aug. 20, she will attend her new student orientation for the University of Memphis for the freshman class.
Ptomey indicated that she wants to major in criminal justice or criminology. She isn't sure of what part of the field at this time.
"My life goal would be to end up working in the FBI or an organization like that someday."
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