A Southold High School senior has joined nearly 85 other cadets who earned full scholarships in the last 40 years through the local Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Skyler Grathwohl was recently awarded a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship and has been accepted to both Norwich University and The Citadel Military College of South Carolina.
In an interview Monday, she confirmed she’ll attend Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., to study either criminal justice or health science and is currently deciding whether to work in the CIA or become an athletic trainer after serving in the Marine Corps.
“I was the happiest person on earth — I wanted this since 10th grade,” she said of the scholarship. “Achieving this was the best feeling in the world.”
The scholarship application process began in May, when Skyler submitted her transcript, letters of recommendation and two essays. She also had to take physical tests, completing a three-mile run, a 70-second flex arm stretch and 90 sit-ups.
Skyler’s father, Ned Grathwohl, said he’s very proud of her accomplishment and believes she earned the scholarship because of her drive and dedication.
He also attributes her success to the NJROTC unit’s leader, senior naval science instructor Maj. Bill Grigonis.
During his tenure, the Southold-Mattituck-Greenport unit has earned first place as Most Outstanding Unit among nearly 50 others in Area 4 for the last 10 consecutive school years. It has also ranked as a top unit among about 620 worldwide, taking first place in 2010-11 and second place last year.
Last month, Cadet Lt. Bill Stuckart of Mattituck High School earned an appointment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., which comes with a full scholarship worth over $350,000.
North Fork cadets have also earned the program’s most prestigious awards over the years, including the New York State American Legion Cadet of the Year, the New York State Sons of the American Revolution Cadet of the Year and the NJROTC Legion of Valor Award.
When Greenport joined the unit during the 1995-96 school year, the program had 75 cadets. Today, it has 320 cadets: 138 from Southold High School, 112 from Mattituck High School and 70 from Greenport High School.
In addition, the North Fork NJROTC unit has averaged about 11,550 hours of community service each year.
“Maj. Grigonis not only helped my daughter, but has also helped so many other students in Southold Town to reach their goals,” said Mr. Grathwohl, a Southold Town police detective.
Maj. Grigonis said he’s also proud of his cadets’ success and described Skyler’s accomplishment as “the epitome of dedication.”
“Every year, there’s a handful of cadets that go above and beyond,” he said. “She’s one of them.
“Since day one in ninth grade,” the major continued, “Skyler wasn’t just out for Skyler. She really cares about the unit and understands about the importance of doing the right thing, even when nobody’s watching.”
In addition to the opportunity to attend college for free, Skyler said the experience she’s gained through NJROTC has also provided intangible rewards.
“Hard work pays off is what I learned,” she said. “Whatever you put into something is the amount of reward you’ll get in the end.”
Caption: Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Skyler Grathwohl at Friday’s annual inspection. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Photo: Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Skyler Grathwohl at Friday’s annual inspection. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)