ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Not long ago, Robertsdale High School Naval Junior ROTC cadet Keanan Ard had a tough decision to make.
At the beginning of the year, Ard, who will graduate next week near the top of his class, applied for a Navy Preparatory Program Scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, a five-year scholarship worth nearly $187,000.
“It’s a very prestigious scholarship to a very prestigious school,” said RHS NJROTC Commander Frank Starr. “It’s almost unheard of that someone would pass up something like that.”
But unbeknownst to Starr and Petty Officer Edward Theodoro, almost as a backup, Ard at the same time applied for the Navy ROTC Scholarship and selected as his university of choice Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, a four-year scholarship worth more than $236,000.
“Embry Riddle is one of the premiere aviation schools in the country,” Starr said.
Needless to say to receive either scholarship would be a monumental achievement for any student, but to receive both would almost be unheard of.
For Ard, who at the beginning of the year received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement, the highest honor an NJROTC cadet can earn, that’s exactly what happened.
“It’s just a phenomenal achievement,” Starr said. In case you haven’t yet done the math, the two scholarships total more than half a million dollars, $514,021 to be exact.
In the end, Ard chose Embry Riddle over Notre Dame, primarily because he wants to go into the aviation field and because the four-year scholarship includes room and board all four years of his academic pursuit. The Notre Dame scholarship only paid room and board for one year over the five-year scholarship.
The achievement caps a stellar high school career for the Robertsdale native.
Provided by the Legion of Valor of the United States of America Inc., an organization made up solely of recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross, the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement is given to just two cadets from each of the NJROTC’s 11 districts nationally each year. Ard is actually the only cadet from Area 8 to receive the award for 2018-19, which includes 49 schools and over 5,000 cadets from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle.
Heading into his senior year, Ard was ranked No. 4 out of 312 students at Robertsdale High School with a GPA of 4.29 and served as the Battalion Executive Officer, making him the second in command among RHS’s senior cadets, responsible for over 170 cadets.
He is heavily involved in community service and is a member of the unit’s drill and orienteering teams. He is also a member of the school’s National Honor Society among other endeavors.
In front of the Robertsdale Rotary Club on April 23, Ard admitted when the team flew to California for orienteering competition earlier this year, it was his first-ever flight.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It’s what I want to do.”