Teresa Novoa walked into the Weston Ranch High gymnasium on Wednesday morning thinking that she and the rest of the JROTC cadets of the Cougar Battalion would be listening to a speech.
She had no idea she was going to be honored with one of the most prestigious JROTC commendations in the country – the only cadet in the entire Pacific region to earn the distinction.
Novoa, a senior and the Command Sergeant Major of the school’s program, was honored with the Legion of Valor’s Bronze Cross for Achievement for her exemplary resume that includes a wide assortment of community service projects to go alongside her 4.3 weighted grade point average.
“I didn’t know that this was going to happen here today,” Novoa said after she was given the award by Manteca Unified Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke – himself a U.S. Army Reservist who spoke about the myriad of things that students learn through the program. “It was definitely a surprise and it was absolutely a great honor.”
While she won’t be pursuing a career in the military, Novoa said that her experience in JROTC – of which she has been involved for all four years of high school – has helped her learn discipline and leadership skills that will suit her well when she goes on to pursue a career in nursing after she graduates in the spring.
The daughter of Anthony and Clementina Novoa, Teresa has done work with Habitat for Humanity as well as the Stockton Asparagus Festival, and has donated her time as a tutor helping other students on campus.
Her commanding officer, Lt. Col. Michael Cerezo, said that she’s a natural leader that helps all of her cadets whenever possible, and has excelled in each and every year that she’s been involved with the program – making her more than worthy of the distinguished honor that is only handed out to just more than a dozen of more than 160,000 cadets every year.
The decision came from the Washington state-based 8th Brigade, which encompasses the Western United States as well as the Pacific region, and she was the only cadet who was honored in this region this year.
“It’s amazing that she was selected for this because an honor like this opens up qualifications for military academies and ROTC scholarships and things like that,” Cerezo said. “I know that she’s going to take a different path and that’s okay – she’s living proof that the program teaches leadership skills and she is going to succeed at whatever she does.”
The Legion of Valor of the United States is a federally chartered corporation that is open to recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross – giving out the Bronze Cross for Achievement to exemplary JRTOC cadets who demonstrate “excellence in military, scholastic and civic affairs” since 1951.
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