By Lt. Col. Vanessa Saks, Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC
/ Published May 16, 2019
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- An Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet from Pensacola High School, Pensacola, Florida, has been awarded the Air Force Junior ROTC and Air Force Association Cadet Leadership Award for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Cadet Maj. Sydney Cloutier was selected from a pool of top high school juniors enrolled in Air Force Junior ROTC from almost 900 units around the world.
“I was extremely surprised after discovering that I would represent both Florida and Region 1 and knew that each finalist was deserving of the national award,” Cloutier said.
“I am absolutely grateful for my amazing family, school, teachers, instructors and community who presented me with all the opportunities needed to even be nominated,” she added. “I know that I am so lucky to attend a school with an Air Force Junior ROTC, let alone one with a (senior aerospace science instructor) and (aerospace science instructor) who have supported me and recognized my hard work throughout my three years in the program.”
Cloutier attributed the diversity of her extracurricular activities and overall academic achievement to her selection. While maintaining a 4.77 grade point average and being a member of the National Honor Society, she was also captain of the varsity volleyball team, participated in six different Leadership Development Requirements and volunteered 28 hours of community service with Escambia County’s Backpack Project, providing meals for 537 Title I students weekly.
“While I do dedicate a significant portion of my time to Junior ROTC, I also value the importance of variety,” she said.
Cloutier plans to join an Air Force ROTC program upon graduation where she would like to pursue a dual major in computer science and planetary geology in hopes of achieving her goal of being an astronaut.
“I believe that it is incredibly important for women and minorities to pioneer in new STEM fields by serving as role models for young women and contributing to the advancement of exploration,” she said. “I want to push the boundaries of both cyber and outer space with the Air Force, or Space Force and NASA.”
Cloutier’s instructors, retired Col. Aaron Lehman, SASI, and retired Chief Master Sgt. Charles Clark, ASI, were not surprised by her selection.
“From day one as a freshman, Sydney has stood out amongst her peers, not only in Air Force Junior ROTC but in Pensacola High School as a whole, in academics, sports but more importantly, in character,” Clark said. “Sydney is finishing up her junior year and has been selected as our corps commander for the 2019-2020 academic year and truly sets the standard not only for Air Force Junior ROTC but for the entire student body to emulate. Colonel Lehman and I could not be more proud of Sydney and all she has achieved.”
The Air Force Junior ROTC and Air Force Association Cadet Leadership Award recognizes the cadet who exemplifies the ideals of what a cadet should be. Air Force Junior ROTC instructors submitted nominations of third-year cadets who were juniors during the academic year. Nominations were evaluated to award state winners, who then competed within their regions. Regional winners were evaluated to produce an overall winner and runner-up.
Cloutier, who was the Region 1 winner, will receive the award at the 2019 Air Force Association National Convention, National Harbor, Maryland, in September.
The seven other regional award winners are:
Region 2, Elizabeth Bennett, Sanderson High School, Raleigh, North Carolina
Region 3, Emily Mulloy, Kingwood Park High School, Kingwood, Texas
Region 4, Rylee Price Eagle River High School, Eagle River, Alaska
Region 5, Agnes Choi, John F. Kennedy High School, Tamuning, Guam
Region 6, Manvir Chahal, Piscataway High School, Piscataway, New Jersey
Region 7, Samantha Herrejon, American High School, Mons Belgium
Region 8, Zoe Duncan, Knob Noster High School, Knob Noster, Montana