Natalia Flores wins coveted scholarship from the Air Force Junior ROTC

Natalia Flores wins coveted scholarship from the Air Force Junior ROTC

Lowell High School Senior Natalia Flores is one of 100 students across the country – and the only one in Massachusetts – who has been offered a J-100 U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC Character-in-Leadership Scholarship.

If she accepts, Natalia, who recently finished a term serving as Wing Commander for the Lowell High School JROTC, will receive four years of full tuition, an annual room and board allotment of up to $10,000, a book stipend, and an ROTC cadet stipend at any college or university that has a U.S. Air Force ROTC program. In return, she will be required to participate in ROTC in college and pursue a U.S. Air Force officer commission following college graduation.

Natalia was first introduced to JROTC when she was a sixth-grader at Ste. Jeanne D’Arc School. She participated in the Lowell Student Police Academy, where the LHS JROTC cadets served as assistants. When she entered Lowell High, she and her older brother both joined JROTC.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork that comes with ROTC,” Flores said. “It is military-based, but it’s not like we are dropping down and doing pushups. It is mostly about leadership, fellowship, and mentoring the younger cadets.”

In addition to JROTC, Natalia, a student in the Latin Lyceum, is a member of the LHS Volleyball and Crew teams and serves as Vice President of the National Honors Society.

A very busy and ambitious young woman, Natalia also makes sure to take time to just hang out with her friends at the mall, binge-watch shows like Outer Banks and Stranger Things, and read fantasy books (she prefers Percy Jackson over Harry Potter). She even took up needlepoint recently.

Natalia interviewed for the J-100 Scholarship in December and then just waited and waited to hear any news. On Tuesday, January 18, JROTC Instructor MSgt. Paul Perez announced to Natalia and her classmates that she was chosen.

The J-100 focuses on character, leadership, citizenship, and diversity.

“I was shocked and excited,” said Natalia. “I didn’t believe him at first. I’m excited and nervous.”

Natalia is currently weighing her options. She does not have to decide until later this spring.

“The idea of going the Air Force route is interesting,” she said. “I like the idea of serving my country and having been a leader, being an officer is just my speed.”

She is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, maybe as a nurse anesthetist or a radiologist. Her dad is a nurse practitioner.

“The medical field is an evolving career path,” she said. “I’ve always found it interesting to look inside the body and see how things work, plus it pays well so I can live independently and not have to rely on anyone else.”

Natalia has applied to 13 colleges and universities and as of mid-January had received acceptance letters from Merrimack College, Simmons College, Rivier University, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell. She is waiting to hear back from her top three choices: Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University.

“We are very excited that Natalia was chosen for this scholarship,” said Lowell High JROTC Instructor MSgt. Paul Perez. “She will be successful in whatever she chooses to do in the future.”

Natalia knows she did not reach this milestone alone.

“I want to thank my parents, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents, who have been my biggest supporters,” she said. “As much as I like to give myself credit for where I am today, they guided and supported me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

“Words cannot describe how proud and excited I am for you and your family,” said her uncle Juan “Manny” Gonzalez.  “God bless you, the future sure is bright!”


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