July 10, 2019Madison Adams' four years in the Floyd Central Navy Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program are an example of the individual growth the program aims to instill in each of its members. Adams, however, exemplifies that growth in a special way, as she became the program's first cadet to earn the prestigious Gilliam Award.
"I decided to join NJROTC as a freshman because I wanted to be involved in high school but didn't have experience in sports or music," said Adams, who graduated in June. "The drill team had a recruiting day at the middle school where they performed their exhibition routine which was what mainly got me interested."
Madison Adams, who graduated from Floyd Central High School in June, became the first cadet in the school's Navy Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program to earn the Joseph C. Gilliam Academic Achievement Award. Photo Submitted
Senior Chief Mike Beal, the Naval Science Instructor for the NJROTC program, said it was a privilege watching Adams grow into a leader.
"She knew she needed something to help her with her confidence and develop her leadership skills," he said, adding it didn't take long for those skills to blossom. "Before you knew it, she was zooming to the top."
Adams served as the Cadet Commanding Officer of the 120-member program, which also includes students from Lanesville High School, during the first semester of her senior year. Calling it an honor, she said serving as cadet commander taught her how to be an effective leader and how to become a good role model while also giving her a sense of confidence.
"Over the years, I have mainly seen myself grow in leadership and social abilities," Adams said. "Before joining the program, I was very introverted and would not speak up for myself or for others. Through the leadership skills I learned while in NJROTC, I became more confident in myself."
This past spring, Adams was selected as the Navy's Area 3 top senior for 2018-19, becoming one of only 13 students across the country to earn the Joseph C. Gilliam Academic Achievement Award.
"The Gilliam Award has never been won at Floyd Central before this year, and it was important to me because it encouraged me to continue showing leadership, humility and service in my everyday life," she said.
Besides having been a part of the NJROTC program, Adams has served on several mission trips with her church, Northside Christian in New Albany, helping people in places like Guatemala, Arizona and the Appalachia Mountains.
"These mission trips were spiritually formative for me as they taught me about other cultures and just how big my God is. I saw love that extended beyond the language barrier and met children who were in desperate need of my love and affection," she said. "I will never stop going on mission trips as they have shaped the person that I am."
Adams also serves in Northside Christian's middle school ministry and nursery, is a small group leader for middle school girls and served as a peer tutor.
"It is important for me to serve because serving is the very purpose I was created for," she said. "I believe that everything I do should point back to Jesus and every person who I encounter should walk away feeling the love of God.
"Middle school ministry is important to me because I struggled with friendships and self image in middle school and was in desperate need of a mentor," she continued. "It was my church leaders who encouraged me and built me up in my faith and my personal life that inspired me to show that same love to girls who are walking through the life I experienced a couple years back."
Besides the Gilliam Award, Adams was selected as the Navy JROTC Outstanding Cadet award by the Louisville Armed Forces Committee. The award was presented at the organization's annual event on May 17 at Millionaires' Row at Churchill Downs.
"This kid is on it," said Beal, who has been with the Floyd Central NJROTC program since 1995, just a year after it was formed.
Chief Warrant Officer Michael (Gunner) Epperson, who, serving as the Senior Naval Science Instructor, has overseen the program since 2013, agreed.
Calling Adams a "very smart young lady," he noted that, while she wasn't the most athletic cadet, she worked hard to become someone other cadets wanted to follow.
"She strived to be a leader, and that ultimately is what this program is about," Epperson said. "You don't have to be the best P.T. (physical team) or the best drill team member or the best rifle team shooter. You just have to care about being here and care about people.
"And she cared about cadets," he said of Adams. "She would mentor these younger cadets into being better citizens. Her mentorship probably is off the charts, how she would work with anyone. … She was always about someone else other than herself."
What is even more impressive, Epperson said, is Adams was able to do that while not only keeping her grades up, but excelling in her classes.
A member of the National Honor Society, Adams earned straight A's in Advance Placement courses and procured 24 college credits in dual credit courses, while placing in the top 7 percent of her class.
This fall, Adams, who has a heart for children, will enroll at Indiana University Southeast, with plans on later attending medical school to become a pediatrician.
"The ability to work one-on-one with a child and treat their needs is my dream career," she said.
Adams is the daughter of Rich and Kelly Adams.