Seth Udell earns an ROTC scholarship through his leadership and kindness


“I feel like every guy wants to do something a little more adventurous,” senior Seth Udell said. “Part of [joining the army] was that I wanted to see the world, and I knew that doing this would be a good way to do that.”

For many joining the army, the prospect of travel is a big motivator. While Seth shares this interest, he also sees the opportunity as much more: he values what the military represents.

“[In all honesty], America is just a great country,” Seth said. “It has given me so many freedoms, and I just want to be able to repay that in any way I can.”

In Seth’s eyes, repaying his country came in the form of an ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) scholarship. The scholarship pays for sophomore through senior year at Indiana Wesleyan, and Seth will be in ROTC all four years. Intrigued by the countless opportunities for leadership and strengthening of character, he applied for the program. After jumping through various hoops and passing skill-based tests, he finally achieved his goal.

For the past few years, he has been working toward being a part of the military and doing ROTC training. When he finally earned the scholarship, Seth was overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment and euphoria.

“When I got the scholarship, I was literally so excited,” Seth said. “My dad showed me it, and I gave him the biggest hug. It was everything that I’ve worked for the past couple years culminating into that moment.”

However, with his excitement also came a feeling of apprehension; he will undoubtedly face many difficulties in the future. Despite his worries, his excitement for the program greatly outweighed his fears.

“I think taking this scholarship will make me a lot more disciplined, just in the fact that you have to have a cleaner room, cleaner schedule, and all that,” Seth said. “A drawback would be that later in life, it’s harder to start a family. It’s just a different kind of life, and the job itself is different too. It’s a mix of intellectual work but also physical labor of marching, walking, and carrying stuff.”

Although college and being independent will be challenging, the addition of ROTC inevitably makes the transition that much harder. However, it will simultaneously open many doors for him.

“I expect the scholarship and program to push me not just academically but also physically and emotionally,” Seth said. “I’ll be pushed spiritually too because I’m going to a Christian college, which will encourage my faith that way. Emotionally, it’s going to be tough– just the regular college stuff like being away from family but also doing all of the extra stuff for ROTC.”

Through high school experiences, Seth gained a fresh perspective that will give him greater insight and prepare him better for leadership, whether it be with the army or not.

“[To be a good leader,] you’ve got to care for the people you’re leading,” Seth said. “You’ve also got to remember that a lot of the time, to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower because you have to know what people are going through. In the army, if I told someone to dig a twelve-foot hole, I have to know what it’s like to dig a twelve-foot hole.”

Seth’s dad, Clark Udell, attests to his leadership skills to his involvement in sports and the inherent determination he gained from playing football, wrestling, and playing rugby.

“I think sports have taught him to work hard,” Udell said. “He’s filled a lot of different roles, and things haven’t always come easily for him, which has given him a better grasp on the idea of hard work. He’s learned to push himself, be uncomfortable, and that hard work pays off, and those things are all things that have prepared him to be in a position of leadership down the road.”

His natural gift for creating community has made all the difference at FHC, and it was quite apparent to teacher and wrestling coach Brad Anderson.

“Seth is one of the most dedicated, hard working, passionate young men I’ve ever had the honor of interacting with,” Anderson said. “He has an incredible amount of integrity and love for his teammates.”

On the wrestling team, his kindness forged greater bonds between him and underclassmen, making him an unofficial leader of the group. Anderson found that to be a noticeably unique talent that set Seth apart from his other students and players.

“Seth often takes time to check in with the younger guys, especially on the wrestling team,” Anderson said. “He also takes the initiative in class and is always asking what more can be done and how he can help. He sacrifices his time for the greater good.”

Particularly in the army, sacrificing for the greater good is an essential trait. The strong moral values Seth possesses stem from the supportive dynamic of his family.

While joining the army was always in the back of Seth’s mind, his interest came as a surprise to his family. When his family began to realize his fascination with the idea and determination to achieve it, Seth’s future with the military began to shine brightly.

“When he first starting taking about the military, it felt almost completely out of the blue,” Udell said. “My wife and I were so confused, but he really stuck with that idea. [Since he first talked about it freshman year,] we’ve gotten a lot of time to wrap our minds around it.”

In spite of his family’s uncertainty, they have still remained his biggest supporters. For Seth, their encouragement has helped him build confidence in shaping his own future.

“My family has supported me a lot,” Seth said. “My mom wasn’t a huge fan of it at first because she was scared for me, which I understand. Still, they’ve all supported me and pushed me to pursue this. Through God and through prayer, I realized that this is what I was called to do.”

For Seth, family means everything. Because he’s going to the ROTC program at Indiana Wesleyan, separation from his family will be the greatest challenge to overcome.

“I think it’ll be very different for my family, especially since I’m the only one- other than my cousin- doing this,” Seth said. “Most of my family doesn’t really get what it’s going to be like, so it’ll be a culture shock for them. I think it’ll make the biggest impact on Clay.”

Seth’s younger brother, Clay, was born with Down Syndrome. This allowed Seth to see the world in a new light because he saw his brother as so much more than a disability. Their relationship has taught Seth incredible lessons about showing kindness to people from all walks of life.

“He’s influenced me so much,” Seth said. “He’s always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with kids with special needs, so having him as a brother has taught me so much. He sees differently from everyone else; he sees the good in everybody. You could be mean to him once, and he would still go up to you and give you the biggest hug. Clay is just so loving, and it’s really different to see. Him being special needs has showed me that kids with special needs aren’t that different from anybody else. They might be a little slower, but they make up for it in heart. I’ve never seen a kid with Down Syndrome not be happy; most of the time, they are the happiest people you will ever meet.”

Ultimately, that universal love for everyone he meets has made Seth the perfect candidate for leadership, and his strength of character will stand out most in the ROTC program.

“The lightbulb started going off for Seth around kindergarten, when he started wondering, “What’s this Down Syndrome thing about?,a��” Udell said. “That’s just how Clay’s been. Seth never has had any concept of Clay being different. There’s a pureness to their relationship, which has really shown itself this year because they’re both at the high school this year. There’s just a friendship there. Most kids are proud of their siblings, but there is a piece of Seth that’s just proud of Clay. I think the two of them together make people feel valued in different ways: one’s more quiet, and the other is kind of in your face. I think Clay’s impact on Seth has been one of caretaking. This idea of “I’m not feeling right when someone’s not being treated righta�� and fighting for the underdog.”

Their close relationship translated into strong leadership skills and a scholarship that has shaped both his future and his character. No matter what happens, his family will always support him and take pride in all he has accomplished.

“When he got the scholarship, there was a sense of pride from him, in a good way,” Udell said. “Obviously we’re incredibly proud, and although I’m a bit bias, I think he deserved it. It’s one more affirmation for us that maybe this is the right track for him to be on.”