Natalie Rios, third-year AF JROTC cadet, ready for take-off


Junior and AF JROTC cadet Natalie Rios, soars past 2,000 other scholarship applicants to receive private piloting license.

Imagine you are in the running for a full scholarship to get your private pilot license. A license that allows you to act as the pilot in command of an aircraft and fly an aircraft solo. There are well over 2,000 applicants while only 200 receive the scholarship. Imagine winning. For Natalie Rios, she won’t have to imagine it; she’s lived it.

Rios is a junior at North Penn High School and a third-year AF JROTC cadet. She applied for a scholarship, along with some of her classmates, which would earn a full scholarship for a private piloting license through the US Air Force. Usually, a license would cost up to $10,000, but for Rios, it will cost nothing. Finding out she had won was a huge moment in her life and for her future.

“I had been anxiously waiting for news that entire morning, but after 4th period ended, I walked into the JROTC room to see Major, who proudly broke the news to me. My friends, fellow cadets Lance Rutto and Mia Dempsey, who also applied and were put on as Alternates, essentially a wait list, were there also and congratulated me,” Rios explained.

Moments after the news, Rios was in shock. Everyone in the room was super excited to congratulate her, as well as her parents who were just a call away.

“I called my mom right after being told, and she cried on the phone. She was super happy. My dad was very proud, and they told my aunts and other family members, who also let me know how proud they were. They told all of their co-workers and even our family friends,” Rios said.

After Rios’ parents and family found out, she was surrounded by overwhelming love and support. 

“My parents were very supportive, as always. Even since day one of JROTC, and before, for as long as I’ve shown interest in going into the Air Force, they’ve always encouraged me when things got rough. This was no different. Even though I was slightly scared to apply, they helped me through it and were proud of me for applying,” Rios detailed.

With amazing support, Rios explained her feelings about the program itself and what she is going to experience in the 8-week program away from home.

“I’m extremely excited and eager to participate, but of course, there’s nervousness that goes along with leaving home for 8 weeks and experiencing what it will be like to be on my own for some time. But I know it’s all going to be worth it,” Rios said.

As Rios highlighted the worth that this scholarship has to offer, she also mentioned her future plans. 

“I’d like to be an Air Force pilot after going to college and doing ROTC,” Rios mentioned.

With big plans ahead of her and an amazing opportunity at the front gates, Rios is ready to fly into her future.