Naperville Native Chosen As Air Force ROTC Student of the Year

Naperville Native Natalie Stephens holding award for being chosen Air Force ROTC Student of the Year
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Naperville native Natalie Stephens has been chosen as the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC) Student of the Year for 2022 by the Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Scholarship Program.

One of three Students of the Year chosen in scholarship program

Three individuals chosen as Students of the Year by the Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Scholarship Program.

Natalie Stephens (far right), along with two others chosen as Students of the Year. photo courtesy: Navy Federal Credit Union

A senior at the University of Utah, Stephens was one of three cadets selected from 15 national finalists for the honor. Those finalists included members of the Air Force, Army, and Navy/Marines ROTC programs, with winners chosen in each branch of service.

“Throughout my years in ROTC I have met countless amazing people and I truly could not be here without their consistent encouragement and inspiration,” Stephens said in a press release. “I value every day I have spent both at the U and as a cadet, and I would like to thank my friends and family for their endless support. I think acknowledging every cadet nationwide is very important because they all have made sacrifices for the greater good and I continue to be inspired by them every day.”

The nationwide scholarship program was launched in 2018, and is meant to recognize rising seniors in the ROTC program who exhibit excellence in the area of leadership, military excellence, scholarship, and service.

Honored at Military Bowl halftime show

Stephens, along with the other two Students of the Year, was honored at the halftime show of the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland on Dec. 28. While there, she got to meet seven recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and toured Washington, D.C. She also received a $6,500 scholarship, and earned a $5,000 donation for the University of Utah’s AFROTC general scholarship fund.

“We train our cadets to be leaders, and individuals who can make decisions and positively impact their surroundings, despite how austere the environment might be. Cadet Natalie Stephens exhibits all these traits and then some.  She is a warrior, leader, thinker and positive role model for not only our younger cadets, but for everyone she interacts with,” said Lt. Col. Graham R. “Jinx” Stewart, professor of aerospace studies and commander of the University of Utah’s AFROTC Detachment 850.

Future plans for Stephens

Stephens is currently majoring in criminology. After graduation, she will commission as a Second Lieutenant, and undergo Air Force Pilot Training. Her goal is to become a USAF Fighter Pilot.

“I have always looked up to the men and women in uniform and I was deeply inspired by their selfless actions and commitment to America,” Stephens said. “I am very motivated by the veterans I have met throughout my life, my family members who have served, and the opportunity to preserve the amazing values America stands for.”

Naperville News 17’s Kim Pirc reports.

photo courtesy: Navy Federal Credit Union

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