Van Horn student values ROTC training

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

One of the most difficult tasks for Van Horn High School senior Sam Neill is navigating his way through the school's hallways and making it to class on time.

And there's a reason the captain in the school's Jr. ROTC program might be delayed – every administrator or teacher who sees him wants to stop and chat about one of Neill's recent accomplishments.

Lt. Col. Bruce Hoover visits with Raider Cadet Captain Sam Neill, a senior at Van Horn High School who helped create the Van Horn Raider Jr. ROTC program this year. He also won the 3-Year Advanced Designee Army Scholarship that will allow him to attend the University of Missouri.

As Neill heads to the Army Jr. ROTC office to visit with Lt. Col. Bruce Hoover (retired), baseball coach Jay Kolster spots Neill near the Jr. ROTC office.

"One of the best young men in this school – one of the best young men I've met since I've been at Van Horn," said a beaming Kolster, as he prepared his team for practice.

Earlier in the day, activities director Chris Corrie talked about Neill, who was recently awarded the 3-Year Advanced Designee Army Scholarship.

"He is what Van Horn High School is all about," Corrie said. "He has made such an impact in this school, and what he has done will carry over to future generations."

Neil, a National Honor Society member who owns a 4.0 GPA, recently teamed with senior Kobe Messick for a one-day blood drive open to students, teachers and administrators at Van Horn.

"We were hoping for 20 or 30 donors, and we got 40, which was remarkable during a pandemic," Neill said.

At the start of the school year, he approached Hoover about starting a Raider program in the school's Army Jr. ROTC program. They teamed up and got it done, and 18 first-year members are making a name for themselves in the grueling challenges they face at competitions.

"Very few individuals reach the rank of general in the military," Hoover said. "But they all have one thing in common, the same traits – and Sam Neill has every one of those traits. I can't wait to see what this young man accomplishes."

Neill recently received word that he had won the 3-Year Advanced Designee Army Scholarship, which will allow him to attend the University of Missouri.

Competition for these scholarships is keen, as over 6,000 students from across the country apply. Scholarships pay for full tuition and mandatory fees. Awardees also receive a book allowance and a monthly stipend to defray the cost of living.

The scholarship process takes close to three months and includes writing essays, taking a leadership test and doing an interview with a member of the Army.

Neill met with Lt. Col. Tara Bradley, a professor of military science at the University of Missouri.

"I made a check list to make sure I had everything done to apply for the scholarship," Neill said. "And it is great that I did my interview with Lt. Col. Bradley because I plan on attending the University of Missouri to study mechanical engineering."

Neill actually was in his full Raider gear at home when he received the call that he had received the scholarship.

"I was in my ROTC/Raider gear – which was perfect – when I got the call," Neill said. "I called my mom to give her the good news, then my dad came home and I told him in person. It was one of those moments you never forget."

Neill will attend Missouri, then dedicate either four or eight years to the U.S. Army, where he hopes to put his mechanical engineering degree to good use.

"I want to do something to help people," Neill said, "and I can definitely see making the Army a career."

He then had to excuse himself. He was running on time, but had to complete that meeting with Hoover in the ROTC office and then head off to a National Honor Society meeting.

"I'm pretty busy, but I love this school and everyone associated with it that I want to be busy, and I want to make an impact on my school and my community," Neill said.