Southold senior earns top NJROTC honor, sets sights on Stanford

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Navy Cmdr. John Skarin presented Southold NJROTC Lt. Cmdr. Shelby Pickerell with the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross and a full college scholarship during a ceremony at Southold High School on Sept. 11.

Southold High School senior and NJROTC lieutenant commander Shelby Pickerell received the NJROTC’s highest honor, the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross, at a Patriot Day ceremony at Southold High School on the afternoon of Sept. 11.

Though Ms. Pickerell knew she would be receiving the medal, she didn’t know she’d also be awarded a full four-year college scholarship by Cmdr. John Skarin, commanding officer for the New York Navy recruiting district.

Ms. Pickerell hopes to attend Stanford University next fall, where she’d like to study linguistics or mathematics before serving in the U.S. Navy. She said she would like to study many languages, but would start with Mandarin and Arabic and then double back to less difficult tongues. She plans to apply to seven colleges.

In addition to her NJROTC success, she also served as captain of the girls’ cross country team, is a musician and has appeared in several school plays. She also spent a month in Sweden as a Rotary International foreign exchange student.

“You’re unbelievably impressive. We’re excited to have you as part of the U.S. Navy,” Cmdr. Skarin said during the ceremony. “Now all you have to do is be accepted to Stanford and you will be attending that school for free.”

After the ceremony, the commander added, “Her academics and extracurricular activities were through the roof. I personally conducted her officer interview in June. She wants to serve her country. I didn’t want to lose her to any other branch of the service.”

Maj. William Grigonis, who heads the Mattituck-Southold-Greenport NJROTC program, said Ms. Pickerell has been an impressive cadet since she joined in her freshman year.

“Whatever she does is done with a smile on her face and done correctly,” he said. “She doesn’t need guidance. She motivates people to get things done.

“She doesn’t look out for Shelby. She looks out for all the kids and expects them to do their best,” he continued, adding that she’s also his “Annie Oakley,” serving as captain of the cadets’ air rifle team.

Ms. Pickerell seemed nervous in the face of all the accolades.

“I was warned ahead of time about the award, but I didn’t know about the scholarship,” she said, adding that she kept the award a secret. “It’s been a stressful week.”

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