For sophomore Nathaniel Ortega, weekday mornings start at 5 a.m. with intense workouts.
This may seem unusual for the average college student, but for Ortega, this is a lifestyle. As the first Taylor student to receive a scholarship with the army, participation in a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program is required.
Monday through Friday Ortega gets up and goes to Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) for workouts with their ROTC program before returning to Taylor for more classes and regular college activities.
“(The ROTC is) for specific people, a specific mindset, a specific lifestyle,” Ortega said. “For me I feel like I still get the fun of college, I still live the college life and my life. I say I do this as a full time job, but I still have my own things going on. I’m not restricted to what I do just because I’m in ROTC.”
Ortega’s journey into the ROTC started in his high school, a JROTC school. His senior year he earned a substantial scholarship from the Army depending on if he continued in an ROTC program.
The only problem was that Taylor didn’t offer an ROTC program.
However, admissions helped Ortega by reaching out to Mick Bates, associate professor of marketing and former military man. He helped establish connections with the IWU ROTC program and works as a liaison for Taylor.
Bates now coordinates with the IWU ROTC program, which is attached to Ball State University’s ROTC program. He also cares for the students in the program and helps market the program to prospective and current students.
“I think (the ROTC) provides a challenge for students who want the challenge: physically, mentally, emotionally and leadership-wise,” Bates said. “It provides an avenue for those students who really feel called to serve their country.”
Now in his second year of the program, Ortega is joined in this challenge by three other Taylor students.
Ortega also recently became the first Taylor undergraduate student to sign a contract with the military.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” Ortega said. “I’ve been working for it since like last year. And just this year I finally met the standards to get contracted and finally get on track to graduate and be an officer”
This contract, which he signed on Sept. 13 after passing physical fitness tests and maintaining a high enough GPA, commits Ortega to spend eight years in the military after he graduates, which he will do as a second lieutenant.
Four years of this contract will be spent in active military training and four years in reserve training or as part of the national guard. After those eight years, Ortega could continue working for the military or find a job using his degree in business management.
“I’m really proud of Nathaniel,” Bates said. “He’s had to work hard for his scholarship with the army and it’s a three-year scholarship. It’s an awesome honor and privilege and not many people get it . . . He had to break the ice in a lot of different things as Taylor was trying to figure out what this ROTC thing was all about . . . I’m just really excited and proud that he was able to earn this scholarship.”