Cadet selected for top ROTC honor

Nicolas Scarano; student voice

Nicolas Scarano was named a Distinguished Military Graduate. ­(Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan)

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After leading his team to a second-place finish in the 30-hour, physically draining Ranger Challenge, UIC cadet Nicolas Scarano was given the next day off to let his body recover. He didn’t take it, though.

Short on sleep and food, Scarano chose to wake up at the crack of dawn to participate in ROTC’s physical training.

“He doesn’t take the easy way out,” said Lt. Col Luke Meyers, who has been working with Scarano the past two years in ROTC at UIC. “He is constantly pushing himself, and that’s exactly what we want in future officers.”

It’s this type of commitment that has elevated Scarano to Distinguished Military Graduate, a recognition given to the nation’s top 20 percent of ROTC students based on academics, physical fitness and leadership. Scarano is the first UIC student to receive the honor in three years.

“It’s a pretty big award,” Scarano said. “I’m flattered by it.”

But the cadet’s ROTC journey wouldn’t have happened without a family compromise. After graduating from Metea Valley High School, he wanted to immediately enlist in the Army. His parents, who both have master’s degrees, urged him to go to college and enroll in an ROTC program instead. That’s when UIC came into
the picture.

“I chose UIC because I’ve always liked the city and I wanted to go into architecture,” Scarano said. “I thought: ‘What better place to look for architecture than the city of Chicago?’”

That decision has paid off for Scarano. The cadet has achieved academic and ROTC success by striking a balance.

“When you want to strive to be better and get the Distinguished Military Graduate, you just have to push more and more,” he said. “It almost becomes like a second major.

“It’s the waking up at five when you were up studying until two in the morning for a physics exam. The balance is one of the main struggles that some of the cadets have.”

While Scarano’s ROTC superiors are impressed with his peak physical fitness and classroom success, they are equally dazzled by his innate leadership qualities.

“He’s the real deal,” Meyers said. “He’s all about leading and taking care of students and cadets here, and in the future it’ll be soldiers. It’s what our nation wants in future junior leaders.”

Scarano’s leadership techniques are, again, centered on finding that balance.

“It’s being able to be approachable while still being respected as a leader,” he said. “You can’t overstep your boundaries yelling at someone, and you can’t overstep your boundaries being friends with someone.”

The Distinguished Military Graduate honor will be presented to Scarano when he graduates in May.

After graduation, Scarano will serve his four-year active duty commitment.

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