While many of her fellow Lacey Township High School graduates settle down to enjoy their last summer before college, Marlina Pavlis will be heading to Milledgeville, Ga. next month to begin a 10-year journey to becoming an officer in the United States Coast Guard.
Pavlis is one of 18 Lacey High School seniors this year who opted to serve their country as members of the armed forces.
Pavlis was awarded a $365,000 U.S. Coast Guard ROTC Scholarship, which will pay for her to attend Georgia Military College for one year, then the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., to pursue her bachelor‘s degree. After finishing college, she must serve five years in the Coast Guard. Once finished with her Coast Guard service, she will emerge as an officer.
“I grew up on the water and have always been around boats,” said Pavlis, who leaves for the first leg of her journey, Georgia Military College, on July 18. “I love the water, I get to go to school for free and when I come out I’ll have a job.”
Like Pavlis, Shawn DesLauriers received a $95,000 U.S. Army ROTC Scholarship and will attend Rutgers University-Newark in the fall, where he will be studying criminal justice. He will take ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, at neighboring Seton Hall University since Rutgers-Newark does not offer the program.
“I grew up in a strict household, so having that structured home lifestyle led me to pursue that in a career,” said DesLauriers. “The opportunities are unbelievable in the Army. I wanted to be a good leader and the Army reached out to me. I visited GoArmy.com, which had great resources, and recruiters, counselors and my own research helped me to make the decision.”
When DesLauriers graduates, he will have an eight-year obligation, of which he must serve at least four years active duty in the Army. He said making the military his career is a possibility but he’s also interested in becoming a New Jersey State Trooper one day.
Amanda Robbins talked to every recruiter and weighed all her options before choosing to enlist in the U.S. Navy. A lot of her friends were in the military, including her best friend, who is a Marine.
“I didn’t want to go to college right away; I wanted to see the world,” said Robbins. “I chose the Navy because of the travel. I want my independence and to be on my own a little bit.”
Up until about a year ago, Nicholas Polnasek wanted to go to trade school to learn welding and automotive skills. Now, he has a contract with the U.S. Navy to be a SEAL, which stands for Sea, Air and Land Team, the Navy’s principal special operations force.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to college and sit behind a desk for the rest of my life,” said Polnasek. “I talked with a Navy recruiter and decided then and there that I wanted to become a SEAL.”
Polnasek ships out on Oct. 6 for boot camp in the Great Lakes region of New York state. After pre-basic underwater demolition, he will try his hand at parachuting and diving. However, he will have to pass all the necessary tests during training to qualify for a chance at the SEALS.
Other Lacey Township High School graduates who have enlisted in the U.S. military this year are: Casey Belamarish, Marine Corps; Frank Datello, Air National Guard; David Dort, National Guard; Matthew Driadon, Marine Corps; Kristofer Karta, Coast Guard; Eric Knoerdel, Marine Corps; Matthew Mayers, Marine Corps; Robert McCusker, Marines; Kannon Shields, Marine Corps; Ryan Stellato, Marines; Francisco Urteaga, Army; Jennifer Way, Army; Quincy Zabroski, Marine Corps; and, Phillip Zumbano, National Guard.