Western Army ROTC cadet top in state, ranked 8th nationally

Contact: Griffin Jones

Grace VanArendonk received recognition her freshman year as the top cadet in Western's ROTC program. This year, as a senior, she was  named the recipient of the 2022 Army Officer’s Saber from the Arsenal of Democracy Chapter of the Association of the United States Army.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University Army ROTC cadet Grace VanArendonk was selected as the top cadet in the state of Michigan—a prestigious honor earned four times in the past six years by cadets in the WMU program—and she has been ranked eighth nationally among all cadets in the Active Duty Nurse Corps.

VanArendonk, a senior from Norton Shores, Michigan, is the recipient of the 2022 Army Officer’s Saber from the Arsenal of Democracy Chapter of the Association of the United States Army. The saber is awarded annually to the most outstanding Army ROTC cadet in Michigan.


Grace VanArendonk

VanArendonk's interest in Army ROTC sparked as a sophomore in high school when her varsity cheer coach suggested she consider a career in the military because of her work ethic and dedication to the team.

She says she appreciated the intensity, structure and purpose of the military and began exploring options in the medical field because she was also interested in becoming a physical therapist.

“This should not have surprised me: My grandpa was a family practice doctor, and my grandma was a nursing instructor,” VanArendonk said. “Following a path of serving in health care seemed like a natural choice.”

After speaking with a U.S. Army recruiter, she was encouraged to apply and subsequently earned a four-year national ROTC scholarship for nursing to Western and admission into the nursing program. She graduates Saturday, April 30.

“My expectations for myself in going into college and pursuing this meant that this was my job,” she says. “I found that mindset to be helpful. The blessing came, however, in discovering that I love the work. It is not just a job; it is something I truly enjoy.”

As soon-to-be Second Lieutenant VanArendonk finishes her nursing degree at Western, she plans to not only become an Army nurse but also a flight nurse and attend the Army’s Ranger School.

About Army ROTC

Army ROTC provides opportunities for individuals to earn their college degree while simultaneously training to become a U.S. Army officer. By joining ROTC, students dedicate themselves to rigorous training, both mental and physical. Once completing the challenges of the program, participants earn a commission into the Army. Western’s Bronco Battalion strives to train cadets and produce exemplary Army officers. Learn more about the Army ROTC program with no military commitment.

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