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MHS Grad Earns Full Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship to Stanford

Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Staff Sergeant Ruiz, USMC (left) presents Jakob Shackleton with a ceremonial check for $180,000—the value of the National ROTC Scholarship that will pay for his education at Stanford University. Upon graduation, he'll enter full-time military service as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Staff Sergeant Ruiz, USMC (left) presents Jakob Shackleton with a ceremonial check for $180,000—the value of the National ROTC Scholarship that will pay for his education at Stanford University. Upon graduation, he'll enter full-time military service as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

McKinney, Texas – It’s not every day that a high school senior is honored with a gold-plated Marine Corps sword a couple of days before graduation—and it’s perhaps more rare yet to receive a full scholarship to Stanford University.

Shackleton portrait in Marine Corps dress blues

On Tuesday, May 26, Cadet Major Jakob Shackleton received both. And, by all accounts, they were well-earned.

The 2020 McKinney High School graduate and MHS Marine Corps JROTC cadet battalion commander was the recipient of a National ROTC Scholarship (Marine Option) worth approximately $180,000.

Family, friends and MHS Principal Alan Arbabi gathered near the entrance of McKinney High School on the afternoon of May 26 and looked on as retired U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ron McPhatter presented Shackleton with the sword, which was donated by the Leatherneck Club of North Texas. Then Staff Sergeant Ruiz of the U.S. Marine Corps presented Shackleton with a ceremonial check for $180,000 to cover his education at Stanford.

Upon the completion of his ROTC training and graduation from Stanford, Shackleton will enter active duty in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant.

With a hand on Shackleton’s shoulder and bearing a proud smile, McPhatter—who has led the district’s JROTC program with retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Trish Ramos since its inception in 2014—recalled his first encounter with a much younger Jakob Shackleton several years earlier.

McPhatter with hand on Shackleton's shoulder and smiling as he passes the sword

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ron McPhatter (right) presents Cadet Major Jakob Shackleton (left) with the Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officer Sword in honor of his outstanding work as cadet battalion commander of the McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC unit.

“Every year, we always look for those kids … that have something special and want something special,” said McPhatter. “As we go around, we ask each kid, ‘What do you want to do with yourself? Where do you see your life going?’ And, he said, ‘I want to be a Marine officer.’”

McPhatter takes such statements with a grain of salt; it’s a long road from the aspirations of a middle school kid to the reality of what it takes to become an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

“But, with each day that passed by, I saw that he was genuine. He was real,” said McPhatter.

group standing with arms around each other holding trophy

McKinney High School Marine Corps JROTC Cadets (l-r) Hayden Hutzler, Garrett Gibson, Jakob Shackleton, Nicholas Strohm and Kylie White at the W.T. White High School Combat Field Meet on February 8th, 2020. The group won first place in the Ruck March event. (Courtesy of Jakob Shackleton)

The MCJROTC program at MHS provides fertile soil to cultivate the determination, drive and practical skills it takes to transform a goal into reality. McPhatter and Ramos don’t actively steer students toward the military, and many of their cadets participate in the program with no plans for future military service. But, McPhatter said that when a cadet comes through the program with that destination in mind, they are happy to point the way forward.

“We try to guide them along their path,” said McPhatter. “We remind them that this is their goal and make sure that they don’t lose focus on it.”

In the case of Shackleton, McPhatter said that he and Ramos kept the determined cadet in the line of progression toward every leadership billet possible to ensure that he would be prepared when the time came to apply for the next step toward a career as a Marine Corps officer.

black and white photo of Shackleton adjusting backpack before event

Jakob Shackleton readies for competition at the W.T. White High School Combat Field Meet on February 8th, 2020. (Courtesy of Jakob Shackleton)

By the time he reached his junior year, Shackleton was the cadet executive officer, second in command. By his senior year, he was the battalion commander, the top cadet—a position that is not conferred lightly. This is, after all, a Marine Corps JROTC program run by real U.S. Marines. Shackleton had earned the position.

“He was highly respected amongst his peers,” said McPhatter. “Every other student knew that Shackleton was the top cadet.”

With the rank came increased opportunities for leadership. Shackleton was responsible for the other cadets, and many decisions about the unit rested on his shoulders.

“[In that role], he’s the decision maker,” McPhatter said. “Things would come up and I’d ask him what his thoughts were about it because I needed for him to start thinking analytically and not just at the surface level. I needed him to start thinking deeper. I would ask him, ‘Do you want to participate—and do you want the program to participate—in this event or that event?’ If there was some type of leadership challenge, I’d bring it to his attention because I knew that he was going to go on to serve in the Marine Corps in a greater capacity. So, I would start giving him responsibilities that a Marine officer would have. I’d say, ‘Ok, how would you think through this situation?’”

Ramos pointed out what really made Shackleton stand out, “It’s not about being perfect,” she said. “None of us are perfect, but the one thing that he did for himself—that made him stand apart from everyone else—is that he had so much tenacity and grit. He knew what he wanted, and he went for it. Anybody can achieve that. It’s how bad do you want it?”

We asked Shackleton for his thoughts on the Marine Corps, the scholarship and his time with the MHS MCJROTC program:

What inspired you to pursue a career in the U.S. Marine Corps?
Shackleton: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to serve in the military to protect and defend this country and the freedoms it represents. I have family history in the Army, which is what influenced me to go to McKinney High School instead of [McKinney] Boyd [High School] to join the JROTC program—but, being in a Marine JROTC program is what inspired me to choose the Marine Corps. Through the JROTC program I met some of the hardest, most squared away people I have ever met, all of whom were Marines, and I was exposed to the Marine Corps culture I have come to know and love. It is this exposure that inspired me to pursue the Marine Corps.

What does earning this scholarship award mean to you?
Shackleton: This scholarship is the culmination of all my hard work from the past four years. Everything I did in high school was to prepare me to become an officer in the military, and this scholarship brings me one step closer to achieving that goal. More importantly though, it is a way to thank all those who have invested so much time and effort into my success—my parents, teachers, mentors—and assures them that their effort was not in vain. I am so grateful for the support I have received the past four years, for I couldn’t have done it without the people who backed me along the way.

How did participating in the MCJROTC program at MHS benefit you?
Shackleton: I strongly believe that if I was not a cadet in the JROTC program, and if I did not have mentors like CWO3 McPhatter and Gunnery Sgt. Ramos, then I would not be in the same position I am in today. Through the program, I not only learned how to be a leader, but I was given real opportunities to develop my own leadership style. I learned how to carry myself in a professional manner, develop strong bonds with fellow cadets in our efforts to work together to achieve a common goal, and I learned how to live up to the standards of the Marine Corps ethos. It is the incredible opportunities I gained through the JROTC program that shaped me into the person I am today.

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