A 17-year-old senior from Herriman High School is the recipient of a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship worth up to $180,000.
Christian Nash, who will attend the University of Utah as a computer science major this fall, was one of four awarded the NROTC scholarship in the Utah, Idaho, Montana and western Wyoming region. Nash was chosen from about 15 candidates.
The four-year scholarship will cover Nash’s tuition, fees, uniforms and pay a book stipend and monthly "subsistence allowance." Although awarded through the Navy, the scholarship is also available to Marine candidates. Nash enlisted in the Marines.
Anticipation had slowly built for Nash, who thought a scholarship announcement was forthcoming in February. Instead, he got a congratulatory call on his cell phone during school in early May. He slipped into the back of a classroom to listen.
Elated at the news piped into his ear, "I literally started yelling," said Nash, who in the excitement of the moment cannot remember what he yelled. "I was extremely exuberant."
He then called his mom, Kim Bergman, at work. She answered, even though she wasn’t supposed to take cell phone calls. He initially played it low key.
"I just wanted to let you know, by the way…He was all mellow about it," was the way the conversation began, Bergman said. But in the sudden rush that accompanied his news, Bergman dropped the phone — then started yelling, too.
"I’m a very, very proud mom," Bergman said. And yet, for her, the scholarship and all that it portends is bittersweet.
Christian was raised, throughout his early life, by almost a single parent — Bergman — because Christian’s dad — and Bergman’s former husband — served several tours of duty as a Marine. Christian, "from the time he was knee-high to a grasshopper" had wanted to become a Marine, Bergman said.
When Christian chose to enlist in November (with a July birthday, Christian has always been one of the youngest in his class), Bergman initially tried to talk him out of it, "but then she realized I was resolute," Nash said.
Bergman chose to sign the papers to give him permission even though, "deep, deep down, it was heart-wrenching," she said.
In that life-changing November, Marine Staff Sgt. Albrey Bernard, Nash’s enlisting officer, saw potential. "He was, basically, everything the Marine Corps looks for in an officer," Bernard said. "In two-and-a-half years of doing this, he was the first kid I ever put forth for this scholarship."
In late January, the scholarship candidates took the Physical Fitness Test, which consists of a timed three-mile run, pull-ups and crunches. Nash beat the 18-minute standard for the three-mile run with a time of 17:46. He did 120 crunches in two minutes; the standard is 100 crunches. He performed 19 pull-ups; the standard is 20.
However, neither Nash nor Bernard knew that after the physical test portion Nash was expected to change into business dress for his interview in front of the scholarship board. Much to his embarrassment, he answered questions about the classes he had taken in high school, his high school transcript, his ACT score, and why he wanted to be a Marine — in his running clothes.
After the interview Bernard said to the commanding officer, "Sir, apology, I had no idea," to which came the reply: "Don’t worry about it — he did very well."
"Don’t you disappoint me," Bernard had said to Nash that day – "and he definitely didn’t."
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