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BHS Senior receives prestigious Joseph C. Gilliam Award

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Bastrop High School senior Rena Richard’s academic achievements and performance as a cadet in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) have earned her a special recognition.

Richard is the Cadet Commanding Officer of the Bastrop High School NJROTC. She was named the NJROTC Area 10 winner of the 2019 Joseph C. Gilliam Academic Achievement Award. NJROTC Area 10 includes all of Texas except El Paso. She is one of only 13 recipients across the United States to receive the honor and the first one ever in Bastrop’s 25-year program history.

“I didn’t know I was capable of something like this, and getting this award makes me feel more confident going to college,” said Richard, who plans to attend Stephen F. Austin State University in the fall to major in forestry. “My mom was really, really excited too!”

Richard credits her instructors for being so supportive and encouraging during the award competition, which included a presentation of her academic record, an essay, and a letter of commendation from a superior. The essay, which took several weeks to write, was about how NJROTC has helped with both academic achievements and life principles. Richard said she could not have done it without the help of her instructors and her fellow cadets.

“They pushed me past what I thought was possible. [Chief Canales and Captain Fletcher] are probably the greatest mentors at Bastrop High School,” she said.

Richard will receive a certificate and medal from the

Thomas and Elliot M. Senn Memorial Fund.

The NJROTC program was established at Bastrop High School in 1994 and is under the direction of retired sailors, Chief Petty Officer David Canales and Captain Chris Fletcher. The program emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, maritime heritage, sea power, fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation, and meteorology. Students receive classroom instruction and participate in unique extracurricular activities related to community service, military drill and orienteering competitions, field meets, marksmanship training, physical fitness, and more.

“It has been a privilege to mentor Rena during her time in NJROTC and watch her grow into a strong and vibrant leader of our 120 BHS NJROTC cadets,” said Captain Fletcher. “We are very proud of Rena and all of her accomplishments.”