Tag Archives: JROTC

Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Francis Lewis JROTC program sends two more students to West Point


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The country’s largest Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program will send two more cadets to West Point.

Aaron Lin, 19, and Brian Nepogoda, 17, have been accepted to the U.S. Military Academy.

The JROTC program at their high school, Francis Lewis, has sent more than 20 cadets to West Point since 2003. Five of Francis Lewis’ JROTC alumni graduated from the prestigious military academy last year.

“I really, honestly can’t even describe my feelings. It’s an extreme honor,” Lin said. “It was my goal since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. It’s my highest personal achievement.”

Lin, a former cadet captain from Flushing, recently completed a one year preparatory program at Marion Military Institute after graduating from high school.

He said his “extreme patriotism” for his country and his Chinese-American pride pushed him to start a life of service.

“Since I’m here, I might as well fight for everyone who lives here,” he said. “I want to show that Chinese-Americans are not any less than anyone else. We’re just as strong. We can become great officers and leaders. I wanted to make my family proud.”

Nepogoda, a senior from Bellerose, said he was inspired to continue in the footsteps of his veteran grandfathers.

“They used to tell me stories about their service, stories about honor and how they were heroes. That really inspired me,” he said.

Nepogoda, a cadet first sergeant, is currently third in charge of a company of 200 students. He was also part of a Francis Lewis team that won first place in a recent Fort Dix competition that tested their mental and physical abilities.

“He gives 200 percent,” said coach and retired Master Sgt. Peter Rompf. “I’m proud. They were both good role models for the team.”

The pair leaves for six weeks of basic training in July before they begin their academic year. They will spend five years in active duty and four years in the reserves after graduating in 2017.

“I’ve wanted to go to West Point since about eighth grade,” Nepogoda said. “When I got accepted, I just couldn’t help but think how weird it is how quickly dreams can come true.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Francis Lewis High School drill team wins nationals


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Patriot Pride

A Queens drill team left high and dry in September has taken back the national title.

Francis Lewis High School’s unarmed team earned an almost perfect score May 6 at the 31st annual National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“It brings tears to my eyes thinking back to how hard they worked,” said their coach, retired Sgt. 1st Class Helen Batts. “Their dedication, loyalty and hard work—they poured their hearts into it.”

The annual competition drew more than 50 schools nationwide. Francis Lewis last sat at the top in 2009.

But with six outgoing senior spots to fill, the team took a blow in the fall when four seasoned drillers left and new members began to drop like flies.

“The team was actually suffering,” Batts said. “In September, I did not see a very productive future for them.”

Leaders put their hopes into a batch of bright-eyed rookies. Four freshmen had less than six months to learn and perfect multiple routines and memorize page after page of military facts.

“I looked at them and saw their strength,” Batts recalled. “I said, ‘You are the four.’ They said to me, ‘We’ll be ready next year.’ I said, ‘No, ma’am. You’re going to bring it this year.’ It just took off from there.”

The freshmen found themselves part of a historical victory. A Francis Lewis team had never before landed a national title with that many new members, Batts said.

Co-captain Jasmine Fung said she was fearful at first, but put her effort into training the freshmen.

“We pushed them the hardest, up until the point where they started crying,” she said. “But they really pulled it off. I’m so proud of them.”

Freshman competitor Christi Mahilum said the four fledglings were skyrocketed to a higher standard.
“We were about to give up somewhere in the middle,” said Mahilum, 15. “But it was worth it.”

News of the triumph came as a shock to the now reigning champs, who placed sixth—their lowest rank in years—at a competition in Kentucky last month.

“It was a wake-up call for us to get into shape,” said Fung, 17. “It was like, ‘Hey. It’s time to get your act together.’”
The team regularly clocked 26 hours of practice in a week, including six hours on Saturday. They forced themselves to come in one hour before school each day, Fung said.

Their hunger for a top trophy was satisfied. The Patriot Pride took home the gold by six points.

“I think that the freshmen didn’t pull it off alone,” said freshman Ashley Chan. “But it feels good to be recognized because we were the underdogs of the team.”

Mahilum, now an experienced driller, said she’s excited to finally take a breath—until next season.

“It feels really good to have helped the team get to where we are now,” she said.

 

 RECOMMENDED STORIES