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Thanks Clarissa for letting us have the pleasure of interviewing you today! Tell me a little about yourself and your upbringing.
I’m from Mustang, Oklahoma – a small town in central Oklahoma. I’m nineteen years old, twenty in May! I started in ROTC at the beginning of Winter Quarter of 2016, a few weeks after I started attending Cal Poly.
What experiences growing up shaped you into the person that you are today?
I have six siblings, so growing up was often times a bit of a madhouse. From birth, I’ve constantly been in a group setting. I’m an extremely positive person, which is largely in part due to the fact that there are always conflicts with seven kids running around; you have to be positive and forgiving to keep yourself from losing your mind! I also played softball for fourteen years, playing as a pitcher for ten of them. Being a pitcher is a highly stressful leadership position. This helped make me super calm under pressure and taught me how to put small problems into perspective.
Who were your biggest influences?
My biggest influence, as cliche as it sounds, is honestly my mom. As I said before, i’m one of seven kids. It’s a yours, mine, & ours situation – some are my mom’s kids, some are my dad’s kids, and I’m the ‘ours’ kid. My mom had four kids before I came along, and she was a single mother for most of that time. This is obviously a tough situation, but my mom has always been the most loving, patient, and empathetic person I know. She has always been really good about putting life in scope for me, in a number of different ways. When I would come home as a kid griping about some kid in my class, she’d always say “Well, in about five years, you won’t even remember this problem, so is it really worth worrying about it now?” She also would make sure I had ambition and some sort of rough draft for my future. Even though it’s clear that the future can change at any minute, she always emphasized the importance of having some baseline to go forth off of. I definitely would be a completely different (definitely worse off) if I didn’t have my mom as my mother.
What was the spark of your desire to become a member of ROTC while being a student?
Close to the end of my high school career (late March 2015), I had no idea where I was going to college or how I was going to pay for it. An Army recruiter cold called me, and I was too polite to say no to coming into the office to talk; so, kind of on a fluke, I ended up going to speak to an Army recruiter with no prior thoughts and definitely no intentions of joining the military.
At the end of our brief meeting, I decided I wanted to enlist. I found out that the Army would pay for 100 percent of school if I enlisted for a certain number of years. It seemed like a pretty fair tradeoff to me, so here I am now.
What fascinates you about the army?
The most fascinating thing to me about the Army is the huge cross section of people. I’m from back road hick country, so I kind of thought everyone in the military would be close-minded and old-fashioned in their thinking. When I went to training, I realized how majorly wrong I was! There are some people like that, for sure, but they’re definitely balanced out with some of the most kindhearted and accepting people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Furthermore, it’s amazing to me that even with all these differences in personalities and world views, we can all come together across the world to achieve a common mission: to improve the world around us, step by step.
What are you goals with Biomedical Engineering and ROTC?
With BMED, I plan on going to medical school to eventually be a trauma surgeon. ROTC is a way for me to keep my undergraduate degree focused and on a steady timeline, as there are mildly strict regulations for how we in the program are supposed to carry out our education timelines. ROTC is also the way I’m paying for my college, both undergraduate and graduate degrees. It’s my dream to be away from where I’m from (Oklahoma) and explore a part of the world that I’m not familiar with. ROTC allows me to make that dream a reality.
How do you wish to achieve your goals?
I plan on achieving my ultimate career goal by being almost ridiculously rigorous with college study techniques, perseverance, and resiliency throughout my schooling.
What’s one thing you wished that people knew about you?
Quite honestly, I’m an open book. If people wanted to know something about me, all they really have to do is have a conversation with me! However, I wish people knew (not just about me, but most people in the military) that people in the military are not all mindless cogs in a bureaucratic machine. They are multi-faceted and more than just the agency they work for; this is a stereotype that I myself was guilty of holding until I actually entered the machine.
What’s the best advice you could give?
The best advice I have for anyone is to put problems in the grand scope of your life. If you encounter a problem, think to yourself, “is this issue worth the energy it takes to be mad about it?,” and if the answer is yes, do something about it.
Thank you for having us today Clarissa, best of luck to you in the future!