AUBURN – As a freshman, wearing a light blue dress shirt and polyester pants to high school made Isaac Sherwood a bit uncomfortable.

When his Air Force Junior ROTC class ended at Lewiston High School, he’d change into his normal clothes for the rest of the day’s classes at Edward Little.

But by his junior year he grew comfortable, and proud, in his dress blues. He wore them all day.

Now Sherwood, 18, is more eager to step into the blues.

The oldest of five children in a single-parent family, he’s been awarded a tough-to-get full Air Force ROTC college scholarship, valued at more than $100,000. He’ll be attending Norwich University in Vermont this fall.

When he graduates he’ll be commissioned as an Air Force officer. He hopes to become a fighter pilot.

“I’m confident about going into the Air Force. I can’t wait to get there,” Sherwood said last week surrounded by his mother and four siblings: Noah, 16, Yosi, 12, Abby, 14, and Yoel, 9. “It’s what I want to do in life. I want to serve our country.”

He applied for the scholarship last year, and learned in April he was receiving an award, but didn’t know for how much. Three days before graduation, during an Edward Little awards ceremony, the amount of his scholarship was read aloud. He was receiving $100,000 from the Air Force and $50,000 from Norwich.

“Kids were cheering. It was unbelievable,” said his mother, Linda Sherwood. “As a single mom of five kids with a low income, it’s just what we needed,” she said. She recalled how as a boy, Sherwood memorized and spouted off “all the presidents, all the states, all the capitals. He was scholarly. He was always reading, always.”

His mother is a former Air Force sergeant who encouraged him to consider the military branch.

In middle school Sherwood signed up for ROTC because the class offered the study of aeronautics. “I thought it sounded cool.”

During the first two years he hung out with friends who were into rap and hip hop, not military uniforms and good grades. He did well in school, but didn’t always do his homework, Sherwood said. School wasn’t a priority.

In his junior year his ROTC commander saw potential in him, and gave him the responsibility of being a flight commander. “Having him believe in me like that helped me have a turnaround,” Sherwood said. “I started trying harder in school. I realized, ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad. I can do this.'”

He started getting A’s. His junior year he was inducted into the National Honor Society. “Junior ROTC has been a big factor shaping who I’ve become,” he said.

Lt. Col. Robert Meyer, who heads the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Lewiston High School, said this is the third year in a row one of his cadets received an Air Force scholarship.

“We work hard to put the students in a position that they can receive the scholarship,” Meyer said. “It takes good grades, good SAT scores, and most of all leadership opportunities,” which is where his program comes in. Sherwood started out as a cadet “who was just sort of there.”

“But I saw more potential than he saw in himself” said Meyer, and so he gave Sherwood leadership opportunities. “The more I gave him, the more he took.” He worked his way to vice commander of the entire corps of cadets, about 103 students, Meyer said. “Isaac is a very dependable and trustworthy person and will make a great officer.”

Sherwood said his story illustrates “even if you feel like there’s nothing you can do, there are always opportunities if you know how to look for them.”

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