COVENTRY — During a virtual ceremony streamed live Thursday on the town's YouTube channel, a variety of awards were given out to students in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program at Coventry High School, before promotions were announced and the unit’s incoming leaders accepted their new roles.
“In trying to figure out how to end the school year, many different plans were considered,” Master Chief Ed Kay said, kicking off the ceremony.
With pandemic-related restrictions preventing other options, Kay said he ultimately chose to arrange a virtual event similar to the scholarship awards night held last month by the Coventry Teachers’ Alliance.
“To say that this year has not been an average year is an understatement,” Kay said, standing in uniform at a podium in Coventry's council chambers. “But if we accentuate the positives, and all that these cadets have overcome, you will see that they have made the best with what they were dealt.”
Unit leaders MacKenzie Bonang, Kathryn Salemi and Logan Studley joined Kay in presenting awards to their peers during the event, which also featured a promotion ceremony and a unit change of command.
The ceremony began as 14 graduating seniors were recognized for their years of dedication to the NJROTC.
“As we say farewell to our outgoing seniors, I would like to thank them on behalf of the entire unit for their continuing hard work over the past years to make this unit what it is today,” said Bonang, who also graduated this year.
A variety of awards were given out to students in each level of the program. Ribbons were awarded for things like “community service,” “unit service,” “demonstrated exemplary service and dedication to the unit” and “exemplary conduct."
Kay also gave out an award to a cadet in each grade who “distinguished themselves with the highest overall academic achievement in school, including Naval Science courses,” with Nicholas DiFazio, Nathan Fernandes, Sarah Fredd and James Bennett each earning the “honor cadet” ribbon.
Matthew Lloyd, Alexander Travison, Logan Studley and Emma Osborne each was awarded the “distinguished cadet” ribbon and a leadership trophy for demonstrating “the highest overall performance, both in scholastics and aptitude in NJROTC.”
Finally, Bonang was named the “overall outstanding cadet,” earning the John Paul Jones Leadership Award.
“The cadet selected for this award has demonstrated the highest level of dedication to the corps, is dependable, loyal and a leader who is focused on the continuous improvement of the unit,” Kay said.
A promotion ceremony followed the distribution of awards, with Bonang reading the names of some of those earning promotions.
“Normally this would have been handled with a little more pomp and circumstance by bringing the cadets forward so that they could have had their ranks put on them,” Kay said. “We’ll find a way in the fall when we get back together to do so, because being promoted within a unit is an incredibly important role and responsibility.”
Amid the pandemic, Kay added, those who were promoted worked extra hard to earn those promotions.
Studley was later promoted to the commanding officer position that Bonang had held, Travison was promoted to executive officer, which had been held by Salemi, and Lloyd took Studley’s place as senior enlisted leader.
But before announcing the new unit leadership, Kay addressed the outgoing leaders, Bonang, Salemi and Studley.
Kay said he looks forward to continuing to work with Studley, a rising senior.
“I’ll save all the sentimental stuff for next year,” he said.
Saying goodbye to seniors Bonang and Salemi, however, was “going to be very tough” on Kay, he said,
Kay spoke highly of Bonang, who plans to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“I know you’re going to go on to be a great leader,” he said to Bonang, “and I plan on being there in Colorado to watch you accept that diploma and pin on those bars. It’s that important.”
As for Salemi, who plans to go to nursing school, Kay lauded her for her strength and leadership.
“Both ladies are going to go on and do great things,” Kay said, adding that it’s tough to say goodbye to each of the graduates.
Bonang also thanked Kay and the senior staff, as well as the entire unit for “helping [her] grow as a person and learn so much about leadership.”
“I will cherish my four years in this program,” she said, just before relinquishing command of the Coventry NJROTC, “and I hope to come back in the future to support them in their future endeavors like they have supported me.”