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Top cadet

By Staff | Sep 8, 2011

A senior at Ida S. Baker High School has been named Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program brigade commander, the No. 1 cadet in all of the Lee County School District, for the 2011-2012 school year.

A special promotion ceremony was held for Matlacha resident Shayna Talbott, a senior, Tuesday morning at the school in front of her fellow students and parents.

“It feels really good,” she said after the ceremony. “I’m really excited.”

Her parents helped attach her new medals and ropes to her uniform.

“We are very proud of her and she worked very hard to achieve this,” Keith, her father, said, adding that her promotion on Aug. 24 is a full-time achievement that will require a good portion of her time.

Her mother Heidi said through a stream of happy tears that she is very proud of her daughter.

Ida S. Baker High School Principal Melissa Robbery said that she is very proud of the school’s JROTC program and all of the students. The JROTC program now has 235 students enrolled.

“The curriculum will benefit you with whatever you do,” she told the students Tuesday morning.

This is the third consecutive year that an Ida Baker student has been named brigade commander and Robbery hopes for another repeat next.

Before being promoted, Talbott was a battalion commander, which put her in charge of all the cadets at Ida Baker High School.

Senior Gerado Ruiz will assume Talbott’s duties, since he was promoted to battalion commander Tuesday morning.

Senior Army Instructor Gordon Rodell said he was chosen for the position because of his participation in JROTC for the past four years, his involvement in school events, and his academics.

“It feels great,” Ruiz said about the promotion. “I feel proud.”

He has moved up from level to level, every year, which left him speechless Tuesday after being promoted for the last time. Ruiz said he joined JROTC because of the physical activity and leadership involved.

“I like being a part of a group that supports each other,” he said. After graduating high school he hopes to continue swimming in college and study biomedical engineering.

A promotion board of instructors came together on Aug. 24 to interview all of the battalion commanders from the Lee County School District’s 13 high schools for the brigade commander position.

Ida S. Baker High School Army Instructor Vernon Cook said the selection board consisted of a panel of six instructors. They go through a series of questions and the students must be prepared to answer them with tact and leadership.

“She is competing against the No. 1 cadets of every school,” Cook said.

Rodell said Talbott began preparing for the brigade commander interview at the end of school last year and continued to study throughout the summer. He said she also practiced in front of people to improve her speaking.

Each commander went into a room one at a time to answer questions.

After they were all interviewed, the board came to a decision the same day as to who was going to be promoted. She said after all the commanders were called into the room, the board had a little talk with them before the new brigade commander was announced.

“I am very happy with the outcome,” Talbott said about being promoted. “It went really well.”

Cook said some of her responsibilities will include talking to all the battalion commanders around the district.

“She will have to stay abreast with all the programs and what they are doing,” he said.

Talbott said it is about making the brigade better.

The senior became involved in the JROTC program her freshman year after a counselor visited her middle school while she was in eighth grade to talk about the program and the different courses that are offered.

“It interested me right away,” Talbott said which immediately led her to the program’s website, which drew her in even more.

She said she has enjoyed being a part of the JROTC program because there is something for everybody. Activities include a drill team, athletic and academic team and a leadership team.

“I enjoy being a part of a team and being a leader,” Talbott said.

JROTC has helped her discover what she wants to do after graduation.

“It helped me realize what I want to do with my life,” she said, which includes going after the full JROTC scholarship, going to college and becoming an officer.

“It opened me up to different things that are available.”

One of the memorable moments of her high school career as a JROTC student, was when she was sponsored by Congressman Connie Mack for the Page Program during her second semester last year. Tabott was one of 64 students who was sponsored for the program.

She traveled to Washington D.C. where she lived in a dorm two blocks from the Capitol, worked and studied for six months.

School always began at 6:15 a.m. for the students and work determined when they were let out for the day. She said they were dismissed from school an hour before legislative business began.

“We always worked whenever Congress was working,” Talbott said.

Her duties included delivering correspondence and legislative material, answering phones and taking messages and preparing for House floor sessions. She said her main station was located on the House floor.

Tabott said she was there during the State of the Union address and the possible shutdown.

“I liked seeing how things moved through the system and how it all works,” she said about her experience at Capital Hill.

Although she enjoyed going to Washington D.C. she said she really missed JROTC when she was gone.