Skip Navigation
Suggest a story
Image for JROTC Cadet of the Year 2017-18
Once a year, the top ten JROTC cadets in the district are honored at an event that celebrates and recognizes their commitment to JROTC, country, home, and community.

JROTC Cadet of the Year 2017-18

April 09, 2018 - Student Success

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) is a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces, based in high schools across the United States and United States military bases across the world. The purpose of JROTC is “to prepare high school students for responsible leadership roles while making them aware of the benefits of citizenship.” In Hillsborough County Public Schools, there are 27 JROTC programs in high schools and career centers across the district, of which there are ten Army programs, nine Navy programs, seven Air Force programs, and one Marine program. 

Once a year, the top ten cadets chosen from 5200 cadets in HCPS are honored at an event that celebrates and recognizes their distinguished service records and commitment to JROTC. Each JROTC program selected their top overall cadet to represent their program in an appearance before a Selection Board. According to Col. Samuel Taylor, the process by which the cadets are chosen was “rigorous and grueling, and required a great deal from each of the cadets.” These young men and women were scored on a rubric that included the following elements: Senior Instructor nomination letter; academic transcripts with GPA (grade point average), community service hours and any AP (advanced placement) and Honors courses taken; an essay on the topic of “How JROTC is preparing me to achieve my goals in life.”; two letters of recommendation; overall judging in four areas – physical appearance, level of confidence, military bearing, and overall impression, along with knowledge of various government entities, wars, current events, etc. From 27 programs, the Army, Navy, and Air Force JROTC programs each chose three cadets, and the Marine program at Chamberlain chose their top cadet. 

The top ten JROTC cadets for 2017-2018 are:

  1. Cadet LTC Ashlyn Ningard, Armwood HS
  2. Cadet Lt Col Mikaela Becker, Bloomingdale HS
  3. Cadet 1st LT Spencer Arrington, Chamberlain HS
  4. Cadet Lt Col Emanuel Morales, Durant HS
  5. Cadet CDR Kenneth Arnold, Gaither HS
  6. Cadet LCDR Amir Gonzalez, Leto HS
  7. Cadet MAJ Dylan Renfro, Newsome HS
  8. Cadet Maj Brandan Fix, Sickles HS
  9. Cadet LTC Nicole Ramazzotto, Steinbrenner HS
  10. Cadet CDR Jayden Martinez, Tampa Bay Technical HS

At the Cadet of the Year ceremony, hosted by Freedom High School, all ten cadets were recognized and celebrated, and then something occurred that was both moving and meaningful. Keynote guest speaker for the ceremony was Brigadier General Tracy L. Smith, U.S. Army Reserve, Deputy Commanding General for Support for the 807th Medical Command. General Smith praised the cadets, reminding them that it was their dedication to duty and country, and their commitment to their home, school, and community that made them stand out so clearly. 

Once Smith had concluded her remarks, she presented all of the cadets with a challenge coin. Challenge coins are normally presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of the unit, but they are also exchanged in recognition of visits to an organization, such as General Smith’s attendance at the Cadet of the Year ceremony. 

Finally it was time to name the 2017-18 Cadet of the Year. Cadet MAJ Dylan Renfro from the Newsome High School Army JROTC Batallion was called back to the stage to accept tributes, checks, and certificates from various guests in attendance, including Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners Stacy White and Victor Crist; the Sun City Chapter 226 of the Military Order of World Wars presented by Lt. Col (Ret) James Warchol; the Association of the United States Army and Gold Star Awareness founder Toni Gross, and finally, the Military Family Support Trust presented by Brigadier General (Ret) Colin Howgill.  Cadet MAJ Renfro was then awarded the Soaring Eagle trophy by Superintendent Eakins and Board Chair Sally Harris.

A special thank-you goes to Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Ms. Antoinette D. Hayes-Triplett, The Homefront Foundation, and Spectrum for their generosity on behalf of our cadets, and Mission Bar-B-Que who donated the entire meal for the cadets and their sponsors and families at a reception following the ceremony.

For more information about the JROTC program in HCPS, contact Col. Samuel Taylor at (813) 744-8900 or email him at  For photos of the ceremony, please visit the Flickr album below.

View Full Album