McKinney, TX - When the United States Marine Corps is willing to pay for your college education—you’re probably doing something right.

Enter McKinney High School senior and Marine Corps JROTC cadet Kylie White.

Kylie is the recipient of a National ROTC Scholarship (Marine Option), valued at $180,000. When she completes her college studies and ROTC program at the university of her choice, she’ll enter active duty as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Kylie would be the first to tell you that she is not a perfect JROTC cadet. Others would be quick to point out that she is working on it—relentlessly, every day.

It has been that drive to succeed that has led her to the rank of cadet captain and her status as student commander of the MHS MCJROTC battalion. And, it was that drive that ultimately brought Marine Corps Captain Stephen Alexander and Staff Sergeant Charles Demeglio to MHS on Monday, Dec. 7, to officially present Kylie with the scholarship in front of family members, Principal Alan Arbabi, the MHS cadet battalion and instructors Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ron McPhatter (Ret.) and Gunnery Sergeant Trish Ramos (Ret.)—known as Gunner and Gunny, respectively, to their cadets.

Kylie has an application to the Naval Academy that’s in progress as well as applications to other universities with Marine Corps ROTC programs. Either route will lead her to her goal: to become an officer in the Marine Corps.

When Kylie entered the program four years ago, she didn’t have plans for a career in the military. But, that changed pretty quickly.

“I wanted to be part of something while I was in high school, and then I saw the JROTC program that visited my middle school,” said Kylie. “I was really impressed, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to be part of a family type environment. As I progressed through the program, I saw Gunny and Gunner and a lot of influence from Marines at all levels. I saw how top-tier they were, how admirable everything they did was and that was what I decided to aspire to—and I’ve been working for it since.”

McPhatter and Ramos don’t actively steer students toward the military. Their goal is to foster leadership skills and effective habits that will help their cadets succeed wherever their paths may lead. But, when they encounter a cadet with a vision for military service and raw leadership talent, they are more than happy to help him or her achieve that goal. They saw a spark in Kylie early on.

“When she came in as a freshman,” said Ramos, “the one thing that really set her apart from everyone else was just that drive, that motivation. She knew what she wanted, and from day one, everything that she did was focused and geared towards that. She never teetered; she never dropped her pack, as we would say in the military. She was just focused and driven, and ultimately that’s what helped her get to where she is today, getting this scholarship.”

When McPhatter or Ramos needed a volunteer, someone who would lead, Kylie would step forward, and she quickly became a cadet that they could count on to get a job done. If she made a mistake, she approached it as an opportunity to grow.

“She’d come back and say, ‘Sir, how can I do this better, or how can I be better?’ And, that’s what we want,” said McPhatter.

Unsurprisingly, McPhatter and Ramos are proud to see another one of their cadets earn the prestigious National ROTC scholarship—an award granted to less than 400 high school seniors across the country each year.

“Super proud,” said McPhatter. “She’s a shining example for other young ladies as well as the men.”

Kylie is part of a growing tradition among MHS cadets who have earned the NROTC scholarship:

  • 2015:  Brigham Young Wilson—US Army ROTC, Arkansas State University
  • 2016:  Conley Walters—US Air Force Academy; Collin Hammack—US Army ROTC, Baylor University; Aidan Mulligan—US Army Military Academy (West Point)
  • 2017:  Thomas McGowan—US Navy ROTC, University of Michigan
  • 2018:  Ian Gillett—US Army ROTC, Southern Methodist University
  • 2019:  Avery Smith—US Army ROTC, University of Oklahoma; Jacob Millis—US Army ROTC, University of Oklahoma; Gian Grant—US Army ROTC, University of North Texas
  • 2020:  Jakob Shackleton—US Naval Academy, USN ROTC (Marine Option) Stanford University
  • 2021:  Kylie White—USN ROTC (Marine Option)

For now, Kylie continues her climb, driven by her goal to be a great leader. She certainly has no intention of slowing down or resting on her laurels. “Right now, I’m a cadet captain. Hopefully, I’ll be promoted to a major for the next promotion,” she said. “This has been like the top of the mountain that I’ve been climbing, and I feel like I’m starting to get there. I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve had and all the influences that I’ve had in my life.”