The Scoop: senior Alexis Gray
Meet Alexis Gray, Commanding Officer of the Cairo High School NJROTC unit.
Alexis, the daughter of Heather and Shawn Gray, lives northeast of Cairo. The 17-year-old has been a member of the CHS NJROTC program since her sophomore year. When asked how ROTC has impacted her the most, Alexis responded, "You meet these people [fellow cadets] on the first day of school and... you don't know who they are. And eventually you're working so much together... they basically become like your family."
"You just develop that type of bond, and I really enjoy having a place to fit in."
Being Commanding Officer (CO) means Alexis is the "number one cadet in the [CHS NJROTC] unit," she explained.
"The way I got here is I worked really hard. I showed up for practices, I stepped up when they needed someone... [by] showing that you have the commitment to be there for them."
For example, Alexis says she filled in for the NJROTC Area 12 orienteering championship one year even though she didn't know how to do orienteering.
After proving her mettle, Alexis was selected for a leadership position by Commander Baker, Master Chief Youngblood, and the unit's high ranking cadets at the time, first serving as Public Affairs Officer, then Chief Petty Officer, Executive Officer, and now as CO, since June 2020.
Alexis, who refers to herself as a "math nerd," says her favorite subject is math. The 12th-grader says that her favorite teachers are NJROTC instructors Master Chief Michael Youngblood and Commander Alex Baker because they "push [their cadets] to be our best."
As well as taking honors and AP classes, the Senior says this is her first semester taking dual enrollment classes through Southern Regional Technical College.
Alexis has been a Syrupmaker cheerleader for three years, in addition to participating in Art Club, KEY Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society, and the newly-formed Political Science Club. She is also an original member of Voices of Cairo, the CHS show choir. Outside of school, Alexis attends Family Worship Center in Cairo and works at Mr. Chick part-time.
One of Alexis' favorite ways to relax is painting the glass door to her bedroom, decorating it according to the upcoming season or holiday. She also listens to music and Disney+ TV shows and movies in her free time: "Something that has music in it, I'm interested one hundred percent!" she exclaimed.
After graduating from high school, Alexis wants to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Students must be nominated by a state or district official to apply, but they are guaranteed a free ride if accepted, Alexis says.
"[The Academy pays] for room, food,... uniforms, books, everything. And you actually get paid every month - you get a [stipend]," she explained
Alexis is applying for four nominations, including those of NJROTC Area 12 Manager Commander Rustie Hibbard and U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop.
At the Academy, Alexis plans to study chemistry to become a nuclear engineer. Inspired by the Blue Angels, she also hopes to pursue piloting.
"I've kind of always wanted to go into the military," Alexis shared. "I've always thought it was so cool how these [military members] were so selfless... and I want to be selfless. This is just my way of doing it."