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Two students receive full ride scholarships from Air Force ROTC

Now is the time of the school year when many seniors are making decisions for the next chapter in their lives, whether it’s college, the workforce, trade school, or the armed forces. 

For Judson High School’s Selma Aguilar and Judson Early College Academy’s Paul McMillian, the decision was solidified with a phone call from the Air Force JROTC headquarters.

One of the greatest sacrifices any American can make is to serve their country. The decision to do so is one not done very lightly - you don’t know where you may go or what obstacles you’ll encounter while you’re there.

But Aguilar and McMillian found pride in that sacrifice, so much so that the Air Force gave both seniors a full-ride scholarship to any university or college in the United States that supports AFROTC, with a guaranteed career after graduation serving the nation as an Air Force commissioned officer.

“Depending on your unit size, a student is nominated,” Aguilar said. “There are over 800 units across the country and overseas.”

According to the Air Force, there are over 125,000 cadets in high schools across the United States, DoD Schools in Europe, the Pacific, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The J-100 AFJROTC Character-in-Leadership scholarship program recognizes outstanding high school seniors enrolled in Air Force and Space Force JROTC. 

Of those, 1600 were nominated, 200 advanced to the interview process, and 100 were selected for this scholarship. Aguilar and McMillian were two of the 100. The scholarship includes 4-years of 100% paid tuition, a $10,000 per-year allowance for university-owned/on-campus housing, an annual book stipend, and a monthly cadet stipend.

“And we came from the same unit,” Aguilar said. Although McMillian’s home school is JECA, he is a part of the Judson HS JROTC program.

For both students, without this scholarship, college would’ve never been an option.

“My parents told me from the beginning that they may not be able to financially help me with college,” McMillian said. “Getting this scholarship was huge in helping to get that pressure off of them. They got up, hugged me, and told me, ‘You can go anywhere with this. You’re set.”

McMillian himself felt a sense of relief.

“I don't have to worry about that college debt. I don’t have to worry about having a job after college,” McMillian said.

For Aguilar, it had a similar impact - without this scholarship, college wouldn’t have been an option.

“It’s not so much about money for me,” Aguilar said. “It’s about serving my country. To me, that is the most prestigious and honorable thing in the world.”

Both are perfect examples of the benefits of getting involved in school - it can open doors, doors that McMillian didn’t even know existed.

“Because I go to JECA, they didn’t even have a program,” McMillian said. “It wasn’t until my junior year that I joined and I realized the value it had. Freshman year, I didn’t even know it was a possibility.”

For Aguilar, it was simply by chance.

“Freshman year, I joined the program - just to try it out. The only requirement I had was to graduate [from high school]. There was no pressure,” Aguilar said. “But I didn’t give myself enough credit for how smart I am. Being a part of this program opened doors for me.”

Both are involved with multiple campus programs, from Orchestra, Criminal Justice, and FFA for Aguilar; to Robotics, Film Club, and Tennis for McMillian, who also plays the piano.

Both are perfect examples of taking advantage of all the programs Judson ISD has to offer and using them to not only open doors but set themselves up for post-secondary life.

“I know it sounds corny, but as long as you put your mind to it, apply yourself, as long as you're open to new ideas, anything is possible,” Aguilar said. “Your life is what you make of it.”

And it starts freshman year.

“Everyone has an equal opportunity to be great in the future. It’s up to them to decide that that is what they want,” McMillian said.

Both Aguilar and McMillian are examples of Judson ISD Producing Excellence - two students who took advantage of all the opportunities afforded to them. Now, through hard work, dedication, and perseverance, their college is taken care of and post-college plans are set.

Ironically for Aguilar, after the military, she wants to continue to give back to the community.

“After the military, I want to become a physics or music teacher,” Aguilar said. “There’s been so many instructors who have developed me to be a great leader. I’m all about giving that back.”

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