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Brien McMahon Cadets Awarded Top Honor

NORWALK, Conn. — Two cadets from Brien McMahon’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps have won a rare and prestigious prize. Israel Navarro, Jr. and Elliott Folston were awarded the Cadet Meritorious Achievement Award in a ceremony June 7.

“It’s really hard to get,” says Kirsten Fahey, the school’s ROTC commanding officer for most of this year. “It’s like a Medal of Honor for ROTC. Basically, you have to save someone’s life to get it.”

And that's just what Navarro and Folston did. On May 11 , the two 11th-grade cadets saved the life of Ronnie Horton, a friend and fellow cadet who was choking on a bone while eating lunch in the school cafeteria.

Navarro and Folston say their “instincts kicked in” when they saw Horton choking. Although Folston is not trained in CPR, he began the Heimlich Maneuver. Navarro, who is CPR certified, then took over and dislodged the food from Horton’ throat. “It was team effort,” says Navarro, who made sure that Folston received equal recognition.

“It was an amazing display of calm and courage,” says Brien McMahon principal Suzanne Koroshetz.

The area manager awards the Cadet Meritorious Achievement Award, which comes with a ribbon, on a case-by-case basis. Brien McMahon falls in Area 4, which covers all of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The two cadets were also honored and received a standing ovation at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Earlier this month at Brien McMahon’s awards ceremony for seniors, Fahey was winner of the Principal’s Award given to two out of the 414 students in the graduating class.

As commanding officer, Fahey was in charge of a group of 117 NJROTC students throughout the school. “She led by example,” says Koroshetz. “They are always willing to help the school. Nothing ever seems like a burden for them. They are role models for everyone.”

This year, the NJROTC performed 1,230 hours of community service, a record for the unit.  They presented colors at various city events, helped at night and weekend events such as concerts, and provided translation services to parents who don’t speak English well. "They organize all the service projects entirely on their own," says NJROTC instructor Lt. Col. Robert Killackey. The cadets, who dress in full uniform every Wednesday, take a ROTC class with Killackey every day. “Basically it's Life 101," Fahey says.

Koroshetz praises Fahey’s leadership. “It’s not just the quantity of the work they do, it’s the quality. Their willingness to help starts at the top.”

Next year, Fahey will attend the University of New Haven and study psychology. She plans to become an Army psychologist. Folston has taken over the commanding officer position from Fahey and will lead the unit next year.

“These kids add to everything that is good about McMahon,” says Koroshetz.

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