Perseverance Comes in Many Forms


Harlin receives Bronze Cross of Achievement Award

Senior Cadet Ryley Harlin is everything a beginning cadet wishes to be.

After having heart complications as a baby and doctors saying her life expectancy was questionable, Harlin wasn’t sure she would be able to participate in or do much of anything at all. But she’s kept her chin high and her expectations higher, because she’s proving everyone wrong.

At the Navy Ball on Oct. 15, she was awarded the Bronze Cross of Achievement, one of the country’s highest honors. Besides this, she has shown exemplary performance in academics and ROTC, all while keeping a positive outlook on life.

“The Legion of Valor’s Bronze Cross of Achievement is obviously based upon extreme merit, but also about overcoming hardship,” Colonel Jim Davidson said. “Cadet Harlin has obviously overcome many hardships in her life and never slowed down.”

Harlin was diagnosed with Pulmonary and Arterial Stenosis at a very young age. It is a condition where the arteries in her heart and lungs are smaller than normal. After open heart surgery and doctors predicting an incredibly short life expectancy, Harlin wanted to prove that even though she had a serious heart condition, it would not stop her from accomplishing her goals.

“I have heart conditions,” Harlin said. “But over these four years in high school, I didn’t let it stop me. I’ve been doing Taekwondo and ROTC.”

At the age of nine, Harlin began practicing martial arts. She won silver and gold at the Texas State Taekwondo Championships and in 2012, she won again and advanced to the Junior Olympics and the National Championships. She came out as #2 in the nation.

“Ryley is one of the most coachable students I have worked with in 20 years,” Harlin’s Taekwondo coach Brett Potter said. “She’s a tough competitor who, the times she lost, took losing as an instrument only to get better.”

In ROTC, Harlin serves as a perfect example and role model for beginning cadets. Her positive attitude and strive to get things done are reasons why she is where she is today.

“Cadet Harlin is a poster in uniform,” Davidson said. “She is an excellent citizen and student, blessed with an abundance of social skills. When she walks down the halls of Joshua High School, you couldn’t ask for a better advertisement for the ROTC.”

Because of her life-threatening heart condition, Harlin’s positive and determined attitude towards the things she does is something to be admired.

“She’s very helpful and is always willing to share her experience with others,” sophomore and assistant Taekwondo instructor Kirsten Zachry said. “She always wanted to improve and get better.”

The experiences Harlin has had to go through are unlike what most students encounter. She faces many challenges everyday but doesn’t give up. For her, everything she does and participates in teaches her something valuable about life.

“If I set my mind to it, I will accomplish it because I know there’s a way,” Harlin said. “As long as you try, you’ll get somewhere.”