Determination combines with family legacy to pay dividends


Irene Koto

Senior Trevor Koto was awarded the NROTC scholarship by military recruiters.

Being able to follow one’s true passion while simultaneously making their family proud with acceptance to an esteemed school is an accomplishment. The hefty scholarship that came along was just the perfect cherry on top. 

Trevor Koto, a graduating senior at Carlmont High School, was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, with a $180,000 scholarship. He received the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship, a path that’ll set him up to serve in the military. 

The scholarship illustrates his hard work over the past year, enabling him to pursue his aspirations of joining the U.S. Marine Corps. 

“I wanted to join the Marines because they’re the tip of the spear in the military; the first to fight and to defend the nation,” Trevor said.

However, the scholarship and enrollment into the Marines are more than an accomplishment; it also symbolizes following his grandfather’s legacy, who served in the military.  

“Trevor’s grandfather was his hero. Throughout school and his lifetime, he wrote several papers on his grandfather,” said Irene Koto, Trevor’s mother. “His grandfather has made a huge impact on him throughout his whole life.”

I’m pursuing science at Berkeley as well [because] I wanted to honor [my grandfather’s] dying wish to become a scientist, but also fulfill my own path of being a Marine Corps Officer.”

— Trevor Koto

Trevor gets to walk in the footsteps of his hero, but it wasn’t determined for him by his grandfather. He decided for himself and is following his own passions. 

“His grandfather always wanted for him to be a scientist. Joining the military was more of Trevor’s personal choice,” Irene said. “He decided to –as the motto says– go for broke and go all out to follow his grandfather.” 

 On top of preparing for the Marines, he’ll be engaged in a rigorous academic environment at Berkeley to make his grandfather and his parents proud. 

“I looked up to my grandfather and also looked up to the military, so I selected this pathway for a reason,” Trevor said. “I’m pursuing science at Berkeley as well [because] I wanted to honor his dying wishes to become a scientist but also fulfill my own path of being a Marine Corps Officer.”  

He encountered this unconventional pathway thanks to the support of his friends.  

“I have a good buddy named Sean Liuli who got me into the [recruiting] office one day,” Trevor said. “I thought this might be what’s for me, and I just went from there, eventually applying for the scholarship.” 

The endearing but rewarding reach to the finish line was the development of great friendships and personal determination.

“I knew that while his parents wanted him to go to college, he wanted to join the military. Since I’ve researched the NROTC program, I thought this was a great compromise,” said Sean Liuli, Trevor’s good friend and a senior at Carlmont High School.  

The support of Trevor’s friends helped him throughout the training process. (Irene Koto)

After learning about the scholarship at the end of his junior year, Trevor then had to condition for the exhilarating recruiting process. 

“I actually thought he was crazy at times; he went from zero to 20 pull-ups in a short amount of time. He’d also put on these heavy backpacks and then just walk everywhere,” Irene said. “He’d put on his backpack and then hit the streets, walking all over the Redwood City and Foster City areas.” 

However, the determined mindset influenced his daily life as well, as he fixed his mind on the eventual goal.

“I think the training enhanced his schoolwork and physical determination because that’s what the recruiters expected of him,” Irene said. “He really took that upon himself and prepared.” 

Training for recruitment was demanding, especially if he wished to meet the scholarship’s physical criteria. 

“The physical training is tough, so I wanted to hold him accountable and push him to keep going,” Liuli said. “To be in the army, you need to meet a high personal training test so I basically bullied him to keep coming in to train for the physical standards. It was friendly banter but I wanted to instill the work ethic in him.”

Everybody – friends, family, recruiters, and thinking about my grandfather, who recently passed away and who I wanted to honor his legacy, they all motivated me to keep going and to do something with my life.”

— Trevor Koto

With the support of his friends and family, he was able to achieve his goals and accomplish what he’s been working towards. 

“Everybody – friends, family, recruiters, and thinking about my grandfather who recently passed away and who I wanted to honor his legacy, they all motivated me to keep going and do something with my life,” Trevor said. 

He can finally fulfill his grandfather’s wishes while still pursuing a profession that honors his hero, and it’s all thanks to the months of diligent work he’s put in. 

“He’s done a really great job, and we’re all proud of him. It’s a big achievement in his life, and although he doubted himself along the way, he pushed through, and I wanted it to be him,” Liuli said. 

For the next four years, with the new drive and determination observed by his friends and family, Trevor will continue to live by his own personal motto.

“Go for broke and go for his grandfather; that was the motto Trevor lived by,” Irene said. “Towards the end, his grandfather told him: set out for what you wanted to do and never quit, just go for broke.