CLOVER, S.C. --
CLOVER, S.C. -- The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarship is a highly competitive and sought after opportunity available to those interested in serving as Navy or Marine Corps officers.
This year, Isaiah Morton, a senior at Clover High School, was one of the applicants.
“I could tell from the beginning that Isaiah Morton was an incredibly bright and intelligent young man, but what set him apart was his charisma and the way he carried himself,” said Sgt. Matthew Barfield, a recruiter at Recruiting Substation Rock Hill. “He has the same qualities in him that the Marine Corps looks for when selecting officers.”
In order to be considered for the scholarship, an applicant must be both mentally and physically fit. Academically, an applicant must earn a minimum score of 22 on the ACT, 1,000 on the SAT or 74 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Physically, the applicant must score a minimum of 200 points on the Marine Physical Fitness Test. The PFT consist of three events: pull-ups, crunches or plank, and a three-mile run.
While applicants must meet minimum requirements, most surpass them, explained Capt. Benjamin Smith, the executive officer for Recruiting Station Charlotte.
“However, the key is to be well-rounded,” said Smith. “We receive many applicants that are strong in one or two areas but might not have the leadership experience or community involvement that we are looking for.”
Morton was a strong applicant in all areas. While achieving a score of 92 on his ASVAB and 282 on his PFT, he also holds multiple leadership positions within his community and school. Morton co-captains his school’s swim team, is the worship leader for their Fellowship of Christian Athletes program, and is the guide at his RSS. He also participates in his school’s choir, works at Starbucks, volunteers at church, and coaches the Race4Chase program and a youth swim league.
“From about midway through my junior year, I knew I wanted to be a Marine,” said Morton. “I just always enjoyed being around people that are going to push me as hard as I am going to push myself. There is just something different about Marines and their personality. I feel an instant connection with every Marine I talk to.”
Morton initially enlisted after graduation, but he received a call from his recruiter, Sgt. Barfield, asking if he had ever considered applying for the NROTC scholarship.
“I’ve heard about the scholarship through social media, but I initially dismissed it,” said Morton. “I just wanted to be a Marine. I had thought about later applying for a different commissioning program, but a scholarship seemed out of reach.”
Morton was hesitant at first, but with encouragement from his recruiters, he decided to apply. Even if he did not receive the scholarship, he could follow through with his enlistment.
“My recruiters helped me through the entire process from that point on,” said Morton. “They gave me all the information I needed for the online portion, scheduled my physical test, and even went over interview strategies. Even though I had doubt about being awarded the scholarship, I took my recruiters advice and went into the interview with confidence.”
“The interview can carry a lot of weight in the selection process,” said Smith. “While some information can be obtained from the online application, the interview allows the selection board to get more in depth to their experiences and determine if they are a good fit for the Marine Corps.”
“I would say for high school students, we definitely want to see someone with a sense of leadership, and someone who stands out from the pack in a good way, and Morton did just that,” said Smith. “The Marine Corps is a service, and we want applicants who are confident but selfless, and wanting to help others.”
Last year, within the Southeast, 86 applicants initially applied, 23 qualified, but only 10 received the scholarship. Morton was among those 10.
“We were on the edge of our seats while waiting for the results to come out,” said Barfield. “I knew the whole time he was going to get it, but it was still very exciting to see his name on the awardees list.”
Morton plans to attend the University of South Carolina this fall. There he will study exercise science and be a part of the school’s NROTC program.
“I am extremely excited to have received the scholarship, and am especially thankful for all the help that I received from my recruiters,” said Morton. “At the end of the day, my main goal is just to become a Marine. I never thought I would receive a scholarship and have the opportunity to become a Marine officer.”
After completion of his junior year of college, Morton will attend Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Upon graduation, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant, and then attend a six-month course at Camp Barrett, Quantico, designed to teach newly-commissioned Marine Corps officers leadership skills and basic principles of leading an infantry platoon.