By Lance White
The phrase, “you don’t always know what’s best for you,” is commonly used. Senior and Battalion Executive Officer Tashina Roberts of Daniel Boone High School’s ROTC program knows those words hold truth.
Fortunately for Roberts, a choice she made years ago changed everything, and partly as a result she has been awarded the Southeast’s highest Marine Corps Junior ROTC honor: the Legion of Valor Bronze Star for Achievement.
This award is given to those who excel in academics and leadership, but Roberts nearly went down quite a different path.
“My freshman year I did not want to be in this program at all,” Roberts said of Boone’s ROTC. “I was doing everything I could to get out of it. They told me I couldn’t though, I had signed a contract. I fell in love with shooting about a week after I had tried to quit, and that got me really into the program. I ended up quitting track and volleyball because I enjoy this program a lot more.”
After Roberts found her talent for shooting, the rest is history. Roberts’ time in ROTC and tutelage under Major Steve Sessis pushed her to reach her full potential. Without his guidance, Roberts said the chances she would be receiving this award would be slim indeed.
The Legion of Valor is an organization that is comprised of those who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, according to Sessis. He also stated that those who have been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, or a Navy Cross, also populate the Legion of Valor.
Battalion Executive Officer is the second in command position of the ROTC at Boone, putting Roberts in a very impressive position for anyone her age, Sessis said.
“Ever since I was little, I was really bossy,” Roberts said. “I just thought that was a girl quality, but I find myself taking charge when people lack that ability.”
Her assertiveness hasn’t left Roberts short of friends. Sessis said that she’s stern when necessary with cadets, but she also treats them with respect.
Sessis isn’t the only authority figure that sculpted Roberts into the cadet she is today.
“I hate to pick out the one person (that’s most influenced me) in the program, but it’d probably be Master Gunnery Sergeant Michael H. Gardner,” Roberts said. ”He’s the one who said I couldn’t quit. He and I have gotten really close – he’s pushed me to be my best. In a way, Major Sessis does too, but he pushes me academically. He helps me to get into all these programs that require all this paperwork, and he’s helped me so much with that.”
Sessis is supportive of the cadets in the program, and has made no apologies for boasting about Roberts’ accomplishments. “She is highly regarded by the cadets,” Sessis said. “She’s got the credibility. She’s on the drill team, the rifle team and she takes charge when she needs to. She’s well-regarded in the school outside of the program. Let’s just say she’s having a very fun high school career.”
Sessis said Roberts carries a 3.85 grade point average, putting her in the top 10 percent of her class. She also has more than 700 hours of school and community service under her belt.
“I am active in several different academic clubs, school council, and I work at Taco Bell,” Roberts said. When she’s not participating in one of those activities, she’s often hanging out with her family.
After Roberts graduates from Daniel Boone High School, she plans to attend Pellissippi State College outside of Knoxville to complete her two year degree. After she finishes her core classes, she intends to transfer to University of Tennessee to complete a degree in nursing.
“I never pictured myself getting this award, there are so many good cadets in the program,” Roberts said. “But they’ve helped me take a step back and take a look at what I have, and not just what other people have.”