McDowell High School senior Chase Baird has chosen the next step in his future by signing on with a full scholarship to East Tennessee State University.

He was recently awarded a national four-year Army/ROTC scholarship to the college of his choice. The U.S. Army receives over 5,000 qualified applications annually for the “full ride” scholarship, and only award about 200 each year. Awardees are high school seniors who have stood out at a national level in athletics, academics and leadership.

Baird was accepted to many D-1 colleges, but chose ETSU to pursue his career in the military, walking the footsteps of his father. He will major in biology, with an emphasis on pre-med, and will enter the U.S. Army upon graduation as a commissioned officer.

A ceremony to officially accept the full scholarship was held at MHS recently, where his parents, teachers and ETSU officials congratulated the senior.

“I hope that you can pause and reflect on all of the accomplishments that got you here today. I’m glad you are coming to my program, the one that I am in charge of, because you will be a reflection of me as well, and we are going to do some great things together,” said Army Lt. Col. Shawn Dodge, who is a professor of military science at ETSU, as well as commander of the Army ROTC program.

The scholarship benefits include full tuition, a stipend of $420 a month; $1,200 a semester for books and fees, room and board and free meal card.

“He will truly be paid to go to college and have a guaranteed job and profession at the end of that,” said Dodge. “We are going to hone your leadership skills because at the end of this endeavor you will be a commissioned officer.”

Dodge said leadership defined by the Army is, “getting somebody to do something they would not have otherwise done by purpose, direction and motivation.”

“Someday you might be leading our sons and daughters into combat. Your ability to provide purpose, direction and motivation is meaningful,” said Dodge. “You are going to be a part of a program that has an awesome legacy. Seventeen general officers have come through ETSU Army ROTC. This is a guaranteed opportunity to serve. What you are singing up for is not a job, it is a 24/7 profession. Congratulations, I am glad you are part of the team.”

Baird credits Nebo Barbell and his dad, Jerry Baird, for helping him with strength, endurance and overall conditioning in meeting the physical requirements for this scholarship. He said he is thankful for his parents keeping him focused academically, and teachers and coaches who have helped position him for this great opportunity. Baird thanked God for his family, friends and health, all of which played a key role in providing the foundation he needed to be successful.

Baird is captain of the MHS soccer team and member of the football team. He is involved in DECA and National Honor Society, among many other activities.