Tascosa High School’s Navy JROTC Program goes to first national academic competition

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:27 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Four students from Tascosa High School Navy JROTC program makes history competing in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps leadership and academic bowl championship this weekend.

Dylan Cortez, Jenacee Cortez, Michael Hagins, and Max Thipphakhinkeo went through two preliminary rounds before becoming finalists.

This is their first time doing this going against 406 schools nationwide to be only one of eight schools selected.

“I’m so proud,” said Dylan Cortez, leader of the academic team. “I’m so excited to see us do something that I never thought would happen before.”

COVID-19 stopped many in person competitions from happening for other groups in Tascosa High School’s JROTC program, but this year’s academic team had a natural gift working with the restrictions.

“It’s kind of this redirection that really let our team shine to show that a lot of people started focusing academically,” said Dylan Cortez. “It shows now that we can make it to nationals if we want to.”

When the announcement came that they were finalists their instructor, Major Diego Barela knew his students were ready for anything.

“This pandemic has made these guys grow even more than a regular year because they’ve had to find other ways how to accomplish things and they’ve done that,” said Major Barela. “They’ve shown me that whatever life throws at them, they’re gonna figure out a way to get things done.”

The team says communication was a key factor in making it to the finals, but they’ve taken away how to push through life’s challenges learning through them.

“Just push through, such as the barrier like COVID-19 to accomplish something great as going to nationals,” said team member Max Thipphakhinkeo.

“I’ve learned I can push myself to be better,” said team member Michael Hagins.

“It’s made me a lot more confident and a lot more ready to just take charge in anything I do,” said team member Jenacee Cortez.

The competition will be held at The Catholic University of America from July 23 to 27.

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