Larissa Shebroe’s military jacket is decked out with colorful patches, braided ropes, shiny pins, ribbons and dangling medals. The decorated battalion commander of the Van Nuys High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Wolf Pack is ranked second in Los Angeles, from among more than 4,000 cadets, earning her the prestigious title of All City Deputy Colonel for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
But the blue-eyed teenager says she has no intention of joining the United States military. Her four years in JROTC, Shebroe said, have strengthened her as a leader; taught her life skills including public speaking, community activism, first aid and discipline; and given her the opportunity to volunteer in various projects, including more than a few with the office of Councilman Tony Cardenas, for which she is receiving an academic scholarship.
“My biggest focus this past year has been to educate people about JROTC,” Shebroe said. “There is a misconception that the program’s purpose is to recruit kids to the Army, and that’s not at all what it’s about. It’s about keeping kids in school, teaching them to be better citizens and motivating them to go to college.”
In addition to her military garb, the Tarzana-born teen has donned many other costumes of sorts: She has been a professional actress since age 9, appearing in a national anti-smoking commercial for Phillip Morris and making an appearance in 2006 in the Emmy-winning TV series “Monk.” Shebroe is also active in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, currently serving as her chapter’s vice president.
“Judaism is a huge part of my identity. I wouldn’t be the same without it,” she said. On a recent trip to visit the University of Dubuque in Iowa, which she will attend in the fall, Shebroe immediately sought out the nearest synagogue and was offered a job in the kindergarten.
Hoping to become a child psychologist or social worker, the offer seems like a perfect fit. With her extensive military training, she should have no problem turning those boisterous kiddies into disciplined cadets in no time.