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El Paso ISD Student Spotlight: Elianna S. McFarlin-Ruiz, Austin High School

(AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL – Nov. 12) – Senior Elianna S. McFarlin-Ruiz worked her way up the JROTC ranks to become El Paso ISD’s highest-ranking cadet this school year. The El Paso ISD brigade commander cadet colonel and champion air rifle shooter plans to study biochemical engineering at New Mexico State University after graduation. Community Engagement spoke to her about her leadership role in JROTC and moving up the ranks for this edition of Student Spotlight.


EPISD: Describe how it felt to be named EPISD JROTC brigade commander cadet colonel.

Elianna McFarlin-Ruiz: When they called my name for the Brigade Commander position, I felt so shocked and exhilarated because I had finally achieved what I have been working hard for. I felt extremely proud of myself and could not stop smiling. I also felt very thankful because my instructors, my mother and grandmother, and even my peers guided me and pushed me forward.


EPISD: How did you become the top cadet in EPISD? What do you do in this role?

EMR: Becoming the top cadet was not easy, I was selected top cadet by a panel of EPISD principals and the president of the board, Col. Robert Koch Jr. I maintain my dedication, and constantly adjust my leadership style to properly help cadets. Also, listening to both my sergeant’s advice to better myself has helped me grow as a person and a leader. As the JROTC brigade commander, I maintain and enforce the structure of JROTC, I help plan and coordinate cadet-led events at the brigade level, and I am the face and voice of all cadets when meeting with the DAI (Director of Army Instruction) office.


EPISD: Tell us about your JROTC career at Austin?

EMR: Before being promoted to brigade commander, I was the battalion commander here at Austin and I am super proud of what I achieved throughout my four years of JROTC. Just like anybody else, I started as a private. I didn’t expect the hardships of what was to come but I stayed strong and pushed through, I was constantly moving and improving, and this showed my instructors my potential for a leadership position. In my freshman year, I was given the opportunity as the S-2 staff member and participated in the JPA (Joint Program of Accreditation) inspection. By my sophomore year, I had achieved the rank of 2nd lieutenant and was promoted to captain. As a captain, I held the position of class leader. And in my junior year, I was promoted to cadet lieutenant colonel and was selected battalion commander.             


EPISD: Why inspired you to join and move up through the ranks?

EMR: My mom and grandma have always been my inspiration, continuously pushing me forward and to do better than yesterday. My mom is in the military, and I've always seen her as my biggest idol. With enough courage to take the first step in following her, I joined JROTC. My mom keeps me going every time I feel uneasy or unworthy. She helps me calm down and reminds me that I can in fact accomplish anything I put my heart into. My grandmother is always compassionate about the work she does. She instilled this in me growing up as a core value.


EPISD: What do you like best about JROTC?

EMR: What I like the best about JROTC is that it motivates young people to become better citizens. There is a structure, standard and discipline that comes with JROTC which helps prepare you for real-world experiences.


EPISD: What else are you involved in at Austin?

EMR: I am also involved in the UIL Speech team with Mr. (Brandon) Cohn.    


EPISD: Tell us about your other achievements in high school.

EMR: The majority of my achievements in high school are from JROTC. Being the brigade commander is my biggest achievement thus far. Last year, I was the No. 1 air rifle shooter in the district and competed in regionals twice in the state of Alabama.


EPISD: What activities do you participate in outside of school?

EMR: Stuff the Truck, orienteering, Adopt-A-Highway and Junior Achievement.


EPISD: What advice would you give students interested in joining JROTC?

EMR: My advice for those interested in joining JROTC is, don’t believe the stigma that JROTC is all about being ‘soldiers’ and always being ‘yelled’ at and ‘told what to do.’ JROTC is more than just a military experience. The mission of JROTC is to motivate young people to become better citizens. There are many different opportunities such as scholarships, and for a bonus, the knowledge you gain will be worth your time now for your future. And yes, JROTC is not for everyone, but I do tell students in my school that if they are interested, do it and complete the full year before they drop the class. Many students miss out on the fun activities that JROTC cadets participate in because they leave at the sight of something they don’t like.


EPISD: Anything you’d like to add?

EMR: I would like to say don’t stop doing what you love and enjoy just because someone feels differently about it. Life is too short to be making decisions based on what other people think or feel. If you want to achieve your goals and dreams you must focus and dedicate yourself to it. Always do what you do with pride.