Shaheerah’s Story: I’m in ROTC

    Meet ShaheerahShaheerah Khan always knew what she wanted to do career-wise. However, joining her school’s Army ROTC program slightly changed her original plans. This inspirational Hofstra University junior has learned many lessons on her journey to academic satisfaction. Shaheerah was kind enough to sit down with ME to share some of her valuable life lessons that can benefit any teen!

    Do what you love
    Before making the full-time commitment of joining ROTC at Hofstra University, Shaheerah joined Junior ROTC in high school. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I got into it, and I started to like it,” shared Shareerah. According to Shaheerah, most students wanted to join because it would exempt them from gym class. Shaheerah’s parents didn’t understand her decision or desire to follow through with such a program. “If I really want something, or if someone tells me I can’t do something, I do everything possible to prove them wrong and succeed.”  In JROTC, participants were tested on knowledge and were required to wear a uniform, without the obligation to serve overseas. Many people did not expect this new decision from Shaheerah. “They saw me as this tiny girl,” Shaheerah said with a smile. “But I’m stubborn, and I can take getting yelled; I’ll just improve myself.” JROTC proved to be a taste of what was to come in Army ROTC in college.

    Stay committed
    Although it wasn’t an obligation to continue on with ROTC—a program that leads to a second lieutenant title upon graduation—Shaheerah decided it would be the best option. The main reason for getting contracted with ROTC was Shaheerah’s desire to go to college. Initially, Shaheerah did not want to join the army, but after looking into what ROTC entailed, she felt it “wasn’t that bad.” Shaheerah revealed, “College is expensive, and if I joined ROTC, my tuition would be covered, and I would get a stipend to buy books for school.” Although being part of ROTC is hard, Shaheerah shared, “It was definitely worth it.” Shaheerah’s parents weren’t in the best financial situation, and when confronted with the idea of their daughter joining the Army, Shaheerah’s parents didn’t dispute it as much. “They were nervous, like any parent would be, but they understood that it was in my favor and good interest,” Shaheerah said.

    Manage your time
    Shaheerah’s first year in ROTC also happened to be her freshman year at Hofstra University. She learned balancing schoolwork and ROTC would have its disadvantages. “I commuted my first year,” Shaheerah said. “I would have to wake up every morning at 4 a.m. to get to PT (Physical Training). Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until 10 p.m. It was stressful.” Shaheerah described PT as a struggle, but she “would make it a point to always try no matter what.” As a freshman, Shaheerah chose to enter the pre-med program at Hofstra, which proved to add to her already hectic schedule. On top of that: her membership to Pershing Rifles, the national military fraternity. Although her military activities and science classes can sometimes clash, Shaheerah offers a positive outlook: “You just need to try your best and find a balance, despite the circumstances.”

    Believe in yourself
    Shaheerah said not too many girls from her culture join the Army. Her loved ones did not understand her choice to join ROTC, but she proved to be persistent. “When I say I’m going to do something, I really fight for it,” Shaheerah said proudly. “I know I have my ups and downs, but I’ve learned that you just need to keep trying and fighting until you get it. It doesn’t mean anything when someone says ‘You can’t do it.’” Although Shaheerah said she’s a little scared about commissioning after graduation, she understands that she’s stepping into the real world, and embraces that fact: “I know I can do this.”

    Keep your options open
    Even though Shaheerah is set on her path now, she said her ten-year-old self would think differently. “I had no interest in joining the Army back then; that wasn’t my plan.” When Shaheerah was ten, she wanted to become a doctor. Keeping an open mind to potential options, Shaheerah shared, can serve in your benefit for the future. “Never say never,” Shaheerah offered as advice. “I followed that saying, and I haven’t looked back since.”

    Despite her choice to join ROTC, Shaheerah is just a normal girl. “I’m not too girly, and I’m not too much of a tomboy. I like watching Jackie Chan movies and listening to Evanescence. I’m just normal.” Shaheerah said she is learning from her journey: “I’ve changed for the better; I used to be one of those kids whose parents had to pull them out of bed in the mornings, now it’s a total turn-around. I’m a better person because of it!”
    – Grace Gavilanes

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