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Southold senior awarded ROTC scholarship at surprise ceremony

At Southold High School, senior Sabrina Basel is a member of the soccer and cheerleading teams, theater, on-air broadcasting through SOHO TV and is a lieutenant commander in the NJROTC.

She can now add another achievement to her impressive résumé: She’s the first female in the school’s history to receive an ROTC Marine Corps scholarship. In the fall, she plans to attend the College of the Holy Cross, a private Jesuit liberal arts college in Worcester, Mass. with a full ride from the scholarship.

Fellow students packed into the high school auditorium Thursday morning for an unknown assembly — the presentation topic had not been specified for students. The Southold-Mattituck-Greenport unit senior naval science instructor, Maj. Bill Grigonis, approached the microphone and gathered the student’s attention. 

“Today, we are here to honor one of your fellow students,” Maj. Grigonis said, his voice breaking. He then asked Sabrina, seated in the front row next to one of her fellow SOHO TV News anchors, to stand in front of the full auditorium.

With a confused expression on her face, Sabrina stood up and approached the major. Marine Corps Captain Daniel English and Sabrina’s parents, Michael and Joline, appeared from behind the stage.

“I’d like to congratulate Sabrina Basel with her selection on the ROTC scholarship which gives her a full, four-year scholarship to the college of her choosing to pursue ROTC in college,” Capt. English said.

A huge grin appeared on Sabrina’s face. Her mother wiped tears from her eyes.

Sabrina, the lieutenant commander and the Southold Company commander in the NJROTC unit, is one of three students who were selected throughout New York City and Long Island for the four-year scholarship. She competed with high school and college students from across the East Coast.

Sabrina’s mother said the family had been anxiously waiting to hear back after her daughter applied for the scholarship last June.

“We were kind of on the edge,” Ms. Basel said. “We’re just so excited, all those late nights are early mornings — it’s all paid off.”

To complete the application, Sabrina submitted a transcript, résumé and recommendation letters for assessment and wrote essays over the summer. In mid-September, she said, she completed a fitness test in Garden City.

Capt. English said amid all the talented applicants, Sabrina stood out immediately. 

“I don’t bat an eye when someone has a 4.0 GPA, or someone played some varsity sports,” he said. “But the minute that I saw Sabrina’s résumé, and the minute that she came in for her interview, I was along the way.”

As soon as he met Sabrina four years ago in the NJROTC unit, Maj. Grigonis said he knew she wanted to be a marine officer.

“When the kids walk into NJROTC their first year, you see who’s really motivated,” he said. “They become your kids in ROTC. It’s different from the classroom … for her to reach this dream, and knowing that you had a part in it. And when they graduate, it’s like a part of your heart goes with them.”

The combined NJROTC program with Southold, Greenport and Mattituck has 268 students, 102 of whom are from Southold.

The North Fork NJROTC unit has averaged about 11,550 hours of community service each year, Maj. Grigonis said.

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Photo caption: Major Bill Grigonis (left), Southold High School student Sabrina Basel and Marine Corps Captain Daniel English honor the student Thursday after she was awarded a four-year scholarship from the ROTC Marine Corps. (Kate Nalepinski photo)