Photo Information

Capt. Elgin Young, RS Lansing's Operations Officer, and Sgt. Eric Snow present Savanna M. Cunningham with the Distinguished Athlete award and the NROTC scholarship May 15, 2007 at Swartz Creek High School.

Photo by Sgt. Donald Bohanner

Awards pay dividends, but preparation is the key

15 May 2008 | 9th Marine Corps District

A well-executed high school awards night can help recruiters build rapport with teachers and faculty, and it can generate interest in next year’s senior class. However, the key to getting the most from the program starts well before awards night.

“High School Awards night (preparation) starts weeks prior to a recruiter ever stepping up on a stage and calling ‘little Johnny’s’ name,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Scot Morefield, recruiter instructor, Recruiting Station Lansing. “It starts with the staff (non-commissioned officers-in-charge) training their recruiters, scheduling with the schools, and creating a plan.”

According to Morefield, the recruiter’s first step is to confirm the dates and times of all awards presentations with the schools, and then get the information on their calendars.

“More often then not, you are going to have a couple of schools that have their awards night on the same night,” explained Morefield. “If you call the schools well ahead of time, you can schedule your time with the schools better. This makes it possible to schedule one school presentation at the beginning of its program and the other school’s presentation at the end, so you never miss a beat.”

“There are three awards that we present,” said Master Sgt. Ronald Olsen, assistant recruiter instructor, RS Lansing, “the Scholastic Excellence, Distinguished Athlete and Semper Fidelis awards. The whole purpose of the awards night is for the recruiter to build rapport with school officials and students. To do this, they have to be familiar with the awards they are presenting and the speeches they are going to give.”


Scholastic Excellence

The Scholastic Excellence award is designated for students who serve as role models and leaders of their peers.

“The nominees do not need to be straight ‘A’ students, but students who achieved the most academic improvement in the past semester,” Olsen said. “In every school, it reinforces the ‘Tough and Smart’ image of the Marine Corps and broadens the base of contacts.”


Distinguished Athletes

The Distinguished Athlete award recognizes the contributions of students who have distinguished themselves in athletics.

“This award is intended targets each high school’s sports program to expand recruiter contact with coaches and student athletes,” explained Olsen.


Semper Fidelis

The Semper Fidelis award recognizes student musicians who demonstrate dedication, attention to detail and technical skills.

“The presentation of this award will help increase contacts with band directors and student musicians interested in the Marine Corps music program,” said Olsen.


Scripting and practicing

The next step is to practice your script and ensure you give special recognition to your poolees in that school. Some sample scripts are available here  to get you started.

“Practice your script until you have it down,” said Olsen. “Make notes for yourself to recognize your poolees in the school to help spread awareness among the students.” 

According to Olsen, a good plan is to ask all of your poolees in the school to stand to be recognized by the audience for making the commitment to join the Marine Corps before presenting the awards.


Seizing the moment

“Lastly, you want to show up early and mingle with the school officials,” said Olsen. “Always keep a positive attitude, a good presentation can help open up the door to a school that otherwise are closed.”

“Last year my awards night at Eastern High School was the greatest door opener I could have asked for as a new recruiter,” said Staff Sgt. Calvin Reid, RSS North Lansing recruiter. “The awards night was broadcasted on the local public access channel. I showed up 30 minutes early, spoke with the administration, and had a chance to meet the five award recipients (before I) had them march on stage for the presentation.  Since then I have seven contracts from that school, and the staff has given me all access to the school.”


Getting started

Before you can present awards, students obviously need their teachers to nominate them. In addition to the methods you’re already using, educators can now also nominate their students for high school awards on the 9th Marine Corps District web site at The website describes each award, contains a picture of the award certificates and automatically generates a fill-in-the-blank e-mail message from the educator to your RS executive officer and Marketing and Public Affairs Representative with the information required to generate the awards.

9th Marine Corps District