May 01, 2018

Meet a NJROTC Cadet

By Lori Draz and Nicole Dado

Nicole Dado

Welcome to Teen Scene.

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact the Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Cadet Senior Chief Petty Officer Nicole Dado, a 17 year-old junior from Freehold who attends the Colts Neck High School’s NJROTC program. As we remember the tremendous sacrifices made by military servicemen and women this year, we also remember their great valor and deep passion for the United States and her people. When Nicole Dado was about to enter high school she was faced with an overwhelming palette of choices, and chose something unexpected, the NJROTC program at Colts Neck High School. Her training unleashed her best qualities, along with a deep and abiding respect for the military and for those who choose to serve. Trying the unexpected made a life-changing difference. Here is Nicole’s story.

High school: a place consistently described to middle school students as “a new beginning” or “the start of your future.” We are all lucky that this area of New Jersey has a seemingly infinite number of high school options with a variety of career oriented programs. In my mind, I was destined to be a part of something special. But what program should I apply to? While I wasn’t 100% sure about what I wanted to do in the future, I fell in love with Navy Junior ROTC (NJROTC) at its’ open house at Colts Neck High School. I thought, “why not try?” So, I completed the rigorous application process and happily was accepted. Coming from a structured lifestyle in my swimming and academic career, I knew this would be a perfect fit and was thrilled for the ‘start of a new future’.

During the summer prior to my freshman year, I attended the NJROTC’s annual Basic Leadership Training (BLT). Incoming freshmen endure a week of training to become official cadets. After that week, I developed my true passion for this program.
In BLT, we took on physical training, introduction to drill (i.e. marching, standing at attention, facing movements), academic classes, and an overview of the opportunities for cadets. I graduated as the Cadet Class of 2019 Iron Woman and Distinguished Graduate for my outstanding performance throughout the week. While I always knew I had this within me, ROTC helped me bring out my best self and I couldn’t have been more proud of all I had accomplished in such a short period of time.
When my time as an NJROTC cadet truly began with the new school year, I joined almost all of the teams, including academic team, drill team, physical fitness team and orienteering team along with participating in various community service events. With this came an indescribable joy, as well as new passion towards helping others.

Now, I am still a part of these teams. Over the past two and a half years in NJROTC I have completed over 500 hours of community service. I have traveled to Pensacola, FL three times to compete at the NJROTC National Academic, Athletic, and Drill Championship; placed sixth in the nation individually in the curl-ups portion of the championship; visited many colleges with fellow cadets, and attended the Area 4 NJROTC Leadership and Sail Training Academy at Newport, Rhode Island. I graduated from Leadership Academy as my platoon Iron Woman, Honor Graduate, and Academic Award recipient. I traveled for four days on the USS Kearsarge as she sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to New York City for Fleet Week and, most importantly, developed a strong passion for the military which will continue in my future as a Naval Officer.

I have learned that opportunities in life are numerous but some present themselves only once. When you are given a chance, you must take it. It is vital because any of them could be the one that shows you the way to your true passion. NJROTC has given me so many opportunities, but I had to be a part of this unit to truly understand them and recognize their value.

All of my dreams were inspired by one decision – to try something new. I developed a strong passion for the military and for helping others. Every week I wear my uniform with pride and joy as a representative of the United States Navy. The Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment, inspire me to be the very best citizen I can be, always striving to work my hardest while pushing others to do their best as well. I will remain forever thankful for those who came before me and gave me the opportunity to create my own path. I am also very thankful for this country, for propelling me to be my best self, and learning to never settle for anything less. It is the military’s values, now instilled within me, that push me to never be defeated by “limits” because anything can be accomplished: there is no such thing as impossible. The stories of servicemen have inspired me and I hope to inspire people to never give up.

Little did I know taking this opportunity would lead me to find the passion of a lifetime. Little did I know the risk I took in applying to this program would ultimately lead me to develop a passion towards my community and becoming a better person. Little did I know Colts Neck NJROTC would be the place for me. I will remain forever grateful for taking that leap of faith when I applied. I took advantage of the opportunity and found what I truly love. I challenge everyone to try new things in order to find your true passion. To me, that is the most valuable thing because it will lead you on the path to true happiness and self-respect.