Riverhead senior wins $180k Naval scholarship to attend any college

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Amanda Gallo, 17, of Calverton, with Commanding Officer John Skarin of the Navy Recruiting District of New York at Riverhead High School Tuesday afternoon.

Riverhead High School senior Amanda Gallo didn’t buy a lottery ticket, but she sure hit the jackpot after being awarded a $180,000 Naval ROTC scholarship over four years to attend the college of her choice.

Amanda, who is the Riverhead High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps executive officer and cadet lieutenant, learned of the award after school district officials gathered her and her father Richard into high school principal David Wicks’ office Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m trying not to jump out of my shoes,” she said moments after she was told of the scholarship.

Amanda was one of six students in this NJROTC district, which includes Northern New Jersey, New York City, parts of Westchester and Long Island, to be handpicked for the award. Other NJROTC students will still compete for several hundred scholarships out of a nationwide pool of 5,000, said U.S. Navy Commander John Skarin who recommended Amanda for the scholarship.

“We were looking for people who are interested in a career in Naval service,” Commander Skarin explained. “Amanda really, really stood out.”

After graduating college Amanda, who has participated in NJROTC all four years of high school, will have to join the Navy, something she said she would love to do.

“I’m absolutely sure I want to do this,” said Amanda, who has dreamed of career in the armed forces since she was about 9 years old.

Amanda’s first choice school is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY where she would like to study mechanical aeronautical engineering. She said she would to prefer that school rather than United States Naval Academy to receive a more traditional education. Her second choice is Norwich University, a military college in Northfield, VT.

Rensselaer costs $41,600 a year to attend, according to its website.

The Gallo family, who live in Calverton, couldn’t be more proud.

“I’m very excited,” said Mr. Gallo who is retired and now drives a school bus.

Amanda, who has four older brothers, will be the first child in her family to pursue a four-year degree.

Riverhead NJROTC commander Lt. Col. Peter McCarthy, a retired Marine who is the unit’s instructor, said Amanda has been the only student in his nine years at Riverhead to be hand selected for the scholarship. Two other students received a scholarship through the application process, he said.

He said he was not shocked that Amanda’s resume rose to the top of the list.

“She’s been a leader the entire time,” Lt. Col. McCarthy said.

And ROTC isn’t her only claim to fame.

Amanda is a goalie on the school’s varsity girls soccer team, not to mention a Teeny award winning actress, a violinist and the editor of the school’s newspaper, Riptide.

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