PA0529ibnjrotc.jpg

Chief Jose Rodriguez, left, Samantha Miller and Cmdr. John McGuire with Samantha Miller, who earned a $200,000 Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship from the U.S. Navy.

NEW PORT RICHEY — A Gulf High School senior made her mark as the first student to complete two rigorous programs concurrently.

Samantha Miller, 17, is a senior at Gulf High School, but she is no ordinary graduate. She is the first student at Gulf to complete both the International Baccalaureate program and the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

The cadet said that “it’s an honor” to be the first student in Gulf High School history with this achievement.

She earned the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship from the U.S. Navy. The $200,000 scholarship will cover the tuition and textbooks for her four-year education at the University of Florida. The Navy will also provide uniforms and a monthly stipend. Her current major choice is health.

Once Miller completes her degree, she will be commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy to start training for her warfare specific assignment.

Miller joined the NJROTC in her freshman year and started the IB program three years later in her junior year. She had to take classes online in order to stay on track with both programs.

On the high school website, the International Baccalaureate program at Gulf High School is described as a way to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” It continues to say, “The academic subjects surround the experiences of our students, while the IB Core lies at the heart of what we do in becoming the people who will lead our communities forward.”

She has received other scholarships such as Bright Futures and the Regional Medical Bayonet Point Scholarship. She has volunteered at Bayonet Point since she was a freshman.

If both programs and volunteering wasn’t enough, she also works at Dairy Queen and competed on the school’s swim team during her sophomore and senior year.

With all of her obligations, she has figured out that the best way to balance her responsibilities is to focus on each task as it comes.

“Take it one day at a time,” Miller said. “I always have somewhere to go. I love being busy.”

Cmdr. John McGuire, a Naval Science instructor at Gulf, believes that Miller has standout qualities that made it possible to complete both programs.

“My personal thoughts are that it takes a special kind of student to be able to balance the difficult IB requirements and still be active in the NJROTC program,” McGuire said. “Not everyone can do it and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they have a strong support system at home and are willing to put in the extra hours after school to get their online courses done.”

He also believes that her ability to be successful in a variety of facets made her an ideal candidate for the scholarship.

“The Navy looks for well-rounded students who maintain a certain level of fitness while earning good grades and participating in clubs, sports, NJROTC, Student Government, etc. They're not necessarily looking for the Valedictorian to award a scholarship,” McGuire said.

Miller’s mother, Susan Sanger-Miller, commends her daughter for pushing through a challenging program like IB while continuing in the NJROTC.

“It’s a very scheduled program,” Sanger-Miller said. “It hasn’t been easy.”

Despite her high rank as student commanding officer, it was never something Miller anticipated on taking.

“There was a hole in her schedule, she tried it on a fluke,” Sanger-Miller said. “She loves drill, she loves the uniformity of it.”

We’re very blessed, Sanger-Miller said about her daughter. She never gives up, she keeps trying.

Despite going into NJROTC on a whim, Miller ended up with a laundry list of lessons that she learned.

I learned how to get in shape, I learned how to talk to people, Miller said. She also improved her time management and self-discipline.

Miller will earn her diploma on June 5 during the Gulf High School graduation diploma at the Yuengling Center, on the USF Tampa Campus.