SAN BENITO — For Cadet Lieutenant Hermelinda Estrada, joining her high school’s NJROTC program felt like a great opportunity to meet new people and make connections.

During her four years with the program, Hermelinda says her unit became like a family to her.

For Hermelinda, being a member of San Benito High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program made her feel like she was in a place where she belonged.

Hermelinda currently serves as NJROTC Supply Officer and Academic Team Captain and is also a member of the unit’s unarmed drill team.

Her dedication, strong work-ethic and leadership skills have shined throughout her time as a NJROTC cadet lieutenant and have recently proven to be award-worthy.

On March 25, Hermelinda was awarded a $1,000 Colonel Edward and Sue McCarthy Memorial Scholarship from the Military Officers Association of America Alamo Chapter.

“I am very grateful for this scholarship and it means a lot to me to assist with paying for my first year of college,” Hermelinda said.

She plans to attend the University of Dallas and major in human and social science.

According to San Benito High School NJROTC Chief Timothy Wilson, Hermelinda’s ultimate goal is to work with the FBI or local law enforcement.

“She is the first cadet from the San Benito NJROTC program to earn this scholarship and her instructors are very proud to see her hard work and dedication pay off,” Wilson said.

Hermelinda said some key skills she learned from the program are organization and leadership.

“It’s actually really helped me outside of NJROTC to be organized and have everything ready to go,” she explained. “The leadership aspect teaches us how to deal with other cadets or if someone is having a hard time — it helps us know how to manage it or how to help them when they ask for our help.”

Hermelinda said being a member of the program can be stressful at times, but overall it’s very fun and the cadets become a part of a group of loving and caring people who just want the best for each other.

“The instructors treat us as their own and care for us as their own, which I’m really grateful that I did meet them because they have helped me a lot these past four years and continued to help me with my college decisions and what I need to prepare for my future,” she said. “They have all of that in mind for us.”

Hermelinda said she recommends students join NJROTC because it’s a chance for them to get involved with the community and make friendships with other cadets that will be there for a lifetime.