Asia Johns, battalion commander of Oliver High School’s Junior ROTC program. (Photo courtesy of Oliver’s Junior ROTC)

No matter where you go to school, hard work pays off.

That’s the lesson Oliver High School senior Asia Johns learned after receiving a full scholarship to Slippery Rock University.

For four years in addition to her other scholastic work, Johns has excelled in Oliver’s Junior ROTC program, the only one of its kind in the Pittsburgh public school district.

Johns credits the Junior ROTC program, where she earned the top student post of battalion commander, for instilling in her the knowledge and skills she needed to receive the scholarship.

“There are a lot of things I would never have gotten to do if I wasn’t in this program,” Johns said.

She added with pride: “[I learned] leadership, time management, responsibility, goals. As a junior, you take a financial aid course, so you understand finance loans, and you also take a financial management course. Like at 17, I think I’m already able to buy a car.”

The nationally-competitive scholarship is not a financial need-based scholarship and is made available by the U.S. Army to high-performing Junior ROTC students who demonstrate merit in their leadership and academic abilities. It covers full-tuition and books and provides a stipend of $350 a month for living expenses.

Johns will use the scholarship to attend Slippery Rock University this fall.

“I’ve been to that campus a few times and I love that campus. I’m interested in physical therapy and they have one of the best programs in the nation,” Johns said.

Johns said she plans to major in athletic training, which will place her on a pre-professional track toward a graduate degree in physical therapy.

As a part of her scholarship, Johns must serve in the Army for four years, but she’ll enter higher than most recruits as a 2nd Lieutenant. If she can defer her service time until after she attends graduate school, the precocious battalion commander hopes to become an Army physical therapist.

“We base that selection on who we best think is able to lead the battalion,” said retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Cassetori, the program’s senior Army instructor. “When we picked her to be battalion commander, she was the top of the junior class.”

Beside sporting a high GPA, Johns, a Homewood resident, showed steady dedication to the program, Cassetori said.

“The thought of traveling here on two buses since 9th grade to come to this school, and you do it consistently for four years and get good grades, this is just a success story,” Cassetori said.

Like many of her collegiate peers, beside Slippery Rock having her favorite program, Johns had a clear reason for selecting it — “I want to be far enough away [from home], but not too far.”