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NFA JROTC Celebrates Annual Award Ceremony – Recognizes Over 7,300 Hours of Community Service

The Newburgh Free Academy JROTC program celebrated their annual award ceremony. After a color guard presentation of the flag and a rendition of the national anthem, Mr. Mike Ragusa, assistant principal of Newburgh Free Academy, Main campus, Mrs. Margaret Chesser and Susan Valentino, assistant principals of Newburgh Free Academy, Main campus began the ceremony. Teachers who dedicate their time and love to the program and this event are Master Sergeant Granda and Colonel Seward.

Mrs. Chesser and Mrs. Valentino welcomed families and distinguished guests by announcing the fact that Newburgh Free Academy, JROTC is being recognized this year as a distinguished unit with merit by the Air Force for receiving an “Exceeds Standards” on their Unit Inspection earlier this year. The units selected represent the 900 AFJROTC units worldwide. This award recognizes the personal growth and accomplishments of the cadets, and support of the school and local community. Cadet Colonel Hansen and Cadet Colonel Col Salerno received the award. Our JRTOC unit has also received the distinguished unit award for several consecutive years.

Earlier this year, the Newburgh Free Academy JROTC program received two prestigious awards. NFA’s JROTC program received the Distinguished Unit with Merit and the “Silver Star” Community Service with Excellence awards this year. The awards were announced at the annual Military Ball that was held over earlier in the year.

The Silver Star for Community Service with Excellence Award was officially presented at this ceremony. The top 5% of schools in the country are selected for this award, making it the most coveted award in Air Force Junior ROTC. Newburgh Free Academy is the only school in New York State and one of only three schools in the northeastern United States to achieve this honor. This also is the second year they have earned this prestigious award.  The Silver Star for Community Service award measures community service contributions from one April to the following April. During that time period, our NFA JROTC participated in 227 projects and donated 7,332 community service hours. Cadet Colonel Hansen and Cadet Colonel Salerno received the award.

Several cadets contributed to this award. Listed are the Cadets that contributed over 100 hours of community service during that time include: Cadet Allishon Nieto – 283 hours; Cadet Adrian Martinez – 238 hours; Cadet Nelson Sanchez – 215 hours; Cadet Justin Santiago – 204 hours; Cadet Daniel Marin – 188 hours; Cadet Yasmin Giron – 178 hours; Cadet Alexandra Gonzalez – 168 hours; Cadet Nadia Garcia – 162 hours; Cadet Amir Balaguer – 149 hours; Cadet Marisa Hansen – 144 hours; Cadet Edanie Crespo – 134 hours; Cadet Andrea Quintana – 132 hours; Cadet Da’nia Kelly – 128 hours; Cadet Jazmin Santiago – 123 hours; Cadet Isasis Romero – 121 hours; Cadet Rachel Sarpakya – 120 hours; Cadet Esteban Speedling – 118 hours; Cadet Eric Boggs – 109 hours; Cadet Alexander Gonzales – 103 hours.

Scholars recognized as ACADEMIC ACES were:

            AS1:  c/Colemen and c/Barraza       98%

            ASII:  c/Rutaquio          98%

            ASIII:  c/Speedling        100%

            ASIV:  c/Hansen             95%



Outstanding FLIGHT:  Alpha Flight.  The flight commanders this year were:

             Cadet Grant

             Cadet Boggs


Additional awards are as follows:



Presenter: Asst. Principal Margaret Chesser & Susan Valentino


OUTSTANDING UNIT W/MERIT - this is for meeting "Exceeds Standards" during our unit inspection in Nov.  (Our Cadet received zero discrepancies in all areas of the inspection)

"SILVER STAR" COMMUNITY SERVICE WITG EXCELLENCE AWARD - This prestigious award recognizes the top 5% of all AFJROTC based on community service in support of schools and local communities.  This year our cadet corps did over 7,300 hours of community service in support of our school and community.


VALOR AWARD SILVER – Second highest decoration that can be earned by a cadet and is awarded for voluntary act of heroism that does not involve risk of life.

Presenter: Asst. Principal Rachel Schuyler

Recipient: Cadet TSgt Matthew Masopust


AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION: (Top 3rd year cadet based upon attitude, appearance initiative, judgment and self-confidence, courtesy, potential, ethics and academics – all around)

Presenter:  Asst. Principal Mike Ragusa

Recipient:  Cadet Lt Col Esteban Speedling (Grade 11.  Estaban was the Kitty Hawk Commander at the start of the school year, and is the Unit Deputy Group Commander for the 2nd half of year. He will be the Group Commander next year for the first half of the year.)                                               


DAEDALIAN: (Patriotism, service, potential for military service, academics)

Presenter:  Capt James Pygas, Stewart ANG Base

Recipient:  Cadet Major Adriana Guerriero (Grade 11.  Adriana was the Drill Team Commander this year and led the team to an overall 7th place finish in the Air Force national drill tournament in March.)   


AMERICAN LEGION: (Scholastics:  Based upon overall scholastic achievement)

(Military:  Based upon general military excellence – leadership, discipline, character and citizenship)


City of Newburgh – American Legion Post 152

Presenter:   Mr. William Rogers

Scholastic Excellence Recipient:   Cadet 1st Lt Cecelia Vasquez (Grade 11.  Cecelia was the Executive Officer this year, and was instrumental in planning the NFA annual home drill competition for 10 regional high schools.) 


Military Award Recipient: Cadet Major Tatiana Zapata (Grade 11.  Tatiana was the Mission Support Officer and made sure all sections of the Support Squadron had what they needed to do their jobs through the inspection and  throughout the year.


Town of Newburgh – American Legion Post 1420

Presenter:   Mr. Duane Mickle, Post Commander

Scholastic Excellence Recipient:  Cadet Lt Col Dylan Dellatore (Grade 12.  Dylan is a Squadron Commander  member of the track team.    He was awarded a Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship worth $180,000 and will be attending Penn State in the Fall to study communications.   


Military Award Recipient: Cadet Lt Col Ian Poveda (Grade 12.  Ian was the Support Squadron Commander, and will be joining the Coast Guard and working in maritime enforcement.) 


Town of New Windsor – American Legion Post 1796

Presenter:  Mr. Tracey Lanthier, Post Commander

Scholastic Excellence Recipient: Cadet Col Marisa Hansen (Grade 12.  Marisa was the Group Commander for the beginning of the school year and is currently the special duties officer.  Marisa was instrumental in the planning and execution of many of the unit successes including the unit inspection, fundraising, and most importantly community service.  Marisa plans on joining the Air Force ROTC program at the College of Mount St. Vincent where she will major in biology.  Her goal is to become an Air Force Physician.)


Military Award Recipient: Cadet Col Derek Salerno (Grade 12.  Derek is the Group Commander and a terrific leader who played an instrumental role in the success of the unit throughout the year.   He plans on becoming a welder and joining the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 373.


DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: (Academics, character, military discipline, leadership)

Presenter:  Ms. Carol McQuinn

Recipient:  Cadet Lt Col Hayley Benedict (Grade 12.  Hayley is a Squadron Commander, and plans on attending SUNY Orange majoring in music education to become a music teacher.

UNITED STATES DAUGHTERS OF 1812 JROTC BRONZE MEDAL:  (A junior or senior who has demonstrated qualities of academic excellence, leadership, military discipline, dependability, patriotism and upright character, which exemplify the ideals upon which our nation was founded.) 

Presenter:  Ms. Carol McQuinn

Recipient: Cadet 1st Lt Xitlali Ramirez Solis (Grade 12.  Xitlali is the Group Civil Engineering Officer and was instrumental in making sure the unit was ready for inspection.  She plans on attending SUNY Orange and majoring in business.)


AMERICAN VETERANS: (Positive attitude toward AFJROTC and service in Air Force, appearance, initiative, dependability, judgment, officer potential) [No year specified.]

Presenter: Mr. Ricky Sherwood and Mr. Jack Versushy

Recipient: Cadet 1st Lt Justin Santiago (Grade 10. Justin was an outstanding Flight Commander, member of the Drill Team, and huge contributor to community service.) 


VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA: (Awarded to a cadet who exemplifies the Core Values of the Vietnam Veterans of America including advocacy, meaningful achievement, integrity, compassion and camaraderie)

Presenter: Mr. Dave McTamaney

Recipient: Cadet 1st Lt Hylton Grant (Grade 12. Hylton is the Alpha Flight Commander and helped lead his team to the Flight of the Year Award.  Hylton plans on attending SUNY Fredonia, in hopes of becoming a sports agent.)   


VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS: (Participation in AFJROTC and possesses outstanding leadership characteristics.)

City of Newburgh – VFW Post 973

Presenter:  Mr. Adam Mejias

Recipient:  Cadet 2nd Lt Ayanah Rivera (Grade 11.  Ayanah serves as the services officer and did a great job overseeing the military ball this year.) 


Town of Newburgh – VFW Post 1161

Presenter:  Mr. Richard Lay, Post Commander

Recipient:  Cadet 1st Lt Michell Carino (Grade 11. Michell is the Kitty Hawk Honor Society Commander.)


NATIONAL SOJOURNERS: (Contributed to Americanism within the Corps and in school). 

Presenter:   Mr. Richard Lay on behalf of Lt Col Jack Moore 

Recipient:   Cadet Senior Airmen Adrian Martinez (Grade 12.  Is a member of the drill team and served as the team equipment manager. Adrian is also very involved in community service and donated over 238 hours of his time just this year.  He plans on attending SUNY Polytechnic and majoring in computer Science to become a Software Engineer.)  


SONS OF UNION VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR:  Recipient must display a high degree of patriotism and have demonstrated a high degree of academic excellence and leadership ability. 

Presenter:  Mr. Richard Lay

Recipient:  Cadet 1st Lt Christopher Marshall (Grade 12, serving as the Group Safety and Security Officer. Christopher made sure drill team rifles were always clean and secure when not being used.  Christopher plans on attending Dutchess Community College and becoming a Phlebotomist.) 



Presenter: George Reilly, Vice Commander Catholic War Veterans Post 386

Recipient: Cadet Capt Melanie Angel (Grade 12.  Melanie was a member of the drill team, and an excellent Flight Commander this year.  She plans on attending SUNY – Dutchess Community College and will major in biology in hopes of becoming a doctor.)


RESERVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: (Attitude toward AFJROTC, appearance, initiative, judgment, self-confidence, courtesy, and growth potential.)

Presenter:  Capt Mark Morris, USN (ret) 

Recipient:  Cadet Capt Aaron Ramos (Grade 12.  Aaron is the Group Athletics Officer and was in charge of setting up monthly flight vs. flight competitions, as well as this year’s flight Olympics.  He also started a running club within the unit.  Aaron is enlisting in the United States Army, and plans on becoming a military police officer.)   


MILITARY ORDER OF THE WORLD WARS: (Based upon outstanding service to the AFJROTC unit.) [Must be committed to continue AFJROTC next year.]

Presenter:  Capt Mark Morris, USN (ret), on behalf of MOWW

Recipient:   Cadet 1st Lt Christopher Restuccia (Grade 10.  Christopher was the Assistant Drill Team Commander and helped lead the team to placing 7th in the nation during the National Drill Completion.) 


MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: (Shows exceptional potential for military leadership)  

Presenter:   Capt Mark Morris, USN (Ret)

Recipient:  Cadet 1st Lt Amir Balaguer (Grade 11. Amir was the Logistics Officer and played a key role in the unit earning the Distinguished Unit with Merit Award.  His section earn zero discrepancies during the unit inspection and he was recognized as an “Outstanding Performer” by the Regional Director.)


MILITARY ORDER OF THE PURPLE HEART:  (Leadership ability, positive attitude toward AFJROTC and country, active in school and community)

Presenter:   Mr. Rich Drago, Post Commander

Recipient:    Cadet Captain Jazmin Santiago (Grade 11.  Jazmin was an excellent Flight Commander this year and very active participant in community service.)



TUSKEEGEE AIRMAN (Attain B average in AS class, good academic standing, actively participating in cadet corps activities and service programs.)

Presenter:  Cadet Casey McKnight

Recipients: Cadet 1st Lt Nia Garrett (Grade 11.  Nia is an Assistant Flight Commanders at the North Campus, and very active with the JROTC community service projects, as well as volunteering at the Salvation Army almost every day after school.)

                    Cadet 1st Lt Kylei Marshall (Grade 11, Kylei is the Group Communication Officer.  She went over and above the call of duty in putting together a unit website to keep cadets informed of events, homework and testable material.  She also helped assemble the end of year slide show shown at the award ceremony.)


CELEBRATE FREEDOM FOUNDATION/EMBRY RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY JROTC AWARD (Awarded to a first or second year cadet who displays positive attitude, initiative, judgment, self-confidence, a courteous demeanor, growth potential, the highest personal and ethical standards and strong positive convictions.

Presenter: Cadet Casey McKnight

Recipients: Cadet 2nd Lt Emily Alta (Grade 11.  Emily is an outstanding students who did a great job as a Flight Commander and member of the drill team.)

                 Cadet 2nd Lt Xaveor Rutaquio (Grade 10.  Xaveor is an exceptional student who serves as the Group Recruiting Officer.  He organized recruiting stations at a number of events and is charged with setting up school visits to recruit at the middle schools.)


SCOTTISH RITE, NORTHERN JURISDICTION: (Encourage Americanism and participation in extracurricular activities, good citizenship and patriotism.) 

Presenter:  Col Seward presented on behalf of Ill Brother Etienne

Recipient:    Cadet 2nd Lt Kimberly Acevedo (Grade 10, Kimberly is the Group Public Affairs Officer.  She and her staff were tasked with taking pictures of all events and service projects to assist with publicizing unit activities.  She helped compile the end of year slide show.) 


AIR COMMANDO ASSOCIATION AWARD:  The Air Commando Association is dedicated to continuing growth, strength, and support of American Special Operation forces through education, charity, research and historical preservation.  Presented annually to cadet that most exemplifies the attributes of Integrity, Self-Motivation, Intelligence, Self-Discipline, Perseverance, Adaptability, Maturity, Judgment, Selflessness, Leadership, Skill, Physical Fitness, and Family Strength.

Presenter:  Mr. Carl Parlatore

Recipient:    Cadet 2nd Lt Angel Rivera (Grade 11, Angel is the Personnel Officer and member of the Drill.  He is an outstanding cadet who was selected by the American Legion to attend Boy’s State.)         


AIR FORCE SERGEANTS ASSOCIATION: (Outstanding qualities in military leadership, discipline, character and citizenship.) 

Presenter:     TSgt Allan Drage

Recipients:   Cadet Capt Isabel Juarez (Grade 11, Isabel is an excellent Flight Commander and all around outstanding cadet.) 

                      Cadet Capt Jahari Blake (Grade 11, Jahari is an excellent Flight Commander at the North Campus and an active member of the NFA tennis team.)    


RETIRED ENLISTED ASSOCIATION AWARD (Awarded annually, for exceptional leadership to the most outstanding AFJROTC cadet while serving in an Enlisted Rank.) 

Presenter:   MSgt Granda

Recipients: Cadet TSgt Benjamin Stillman (Grade 10.  Ben was the Logistics NCOIC when he won this award and he played a key role in the unit earning the Distinguished Unit with Merit Award.  He was recently selected to become a 2Lt.)




 Presenter: MSgt Granda

Recipients: ASI: Cadet Hannah Cullen

                 ASII: Cadet Justin Santiago

                 ASIII: Cadet Derek Salerno

                 ASIV: Cadet Marisa Hansen



Presenter:  MSgt Granda

Recipient:  Cadet Lt Col Esteban Speedling



Presenter:  Col Seward

Army:  Cadet Aaron Ramos

Coast Guard:  Cadet Ian Poveda

Marine Corps:  Cadet Tony Ballesta and Cadet Dylan Dellatore      


Several alumni were on hand to celebrate the occasion. Alumni in attendance included:


Casey McKnight, NFA class of 2018, Air Force ROTC Det 157 at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University 

Michaels Vondras, NFA class of 2018, Studying to be a teacher at SUNY Orange

MIDN Charlie Mahoney, NFA Class of 2017, University of Maryland Class of 2020, Contracted United States Naval ROTC

Christian Torres, NFA Class of 2016, Virginia Military Institute Class of 2020, Studying computer Science, Contracted United States Air Force

Shayna A. Crespo, NFA Class of 2018, New York University Class of 2022, Air Force ROTC

Jimmy Armstrong, NFA Class of 2018, Iona college Class of 2022, Air Force ROTC Contracted United States Air Force



ATTENTION: Are your scholars or colleagues doing something great? Please contact the district Communications Team at communications@necsd.net. We’d love to visit your class or event and/or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district!

Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Student accepts their award.
Students pose with their award.

Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.

Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Students pose with their award.
Alumni pose for an award.
Date: 2019-06-18 05:45:27 AM


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