Matthew S. Benedix, a member of UCF’s Army ROTC, was recently ranked as the nation’s No. 2 cadet in this year’s graduating class.

The Army’s Order of Merit List ranks all 5,575 of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps seniors who are scheduled to graduate and be commissioned this spring. The announcement was made at the U.S. Army Cadet Command out of Fort Knox, Ky.

“This achievement is not my own, but is an achievement for the entire battalion, the mentors who have helped me along the way, and my peers who continuously pushed me and continue to push me to be better every day,” said Benedix, an economics major from Valrico who will be commissioned as an active-duty 2nd lieutenant after commencement at UCF.

The cadet said he is not from a military family, but his younger brother, a UCF freshman, is also in the Army ROTC. Benedix said he doesn’t know where he will be stationed next year or what job he’ll be assigned to, “but regardless of the outcome I will do my best to serve my country.”

Cadets on the list are ranked by achieving superior grade point averages, strong athletic performance in the Army physical fitness test and athletic participation, proving their worth as exceptional leaders, and the performance at the Cadet Leadership Course. A cadet’s position on the list can determine his or her future choice of occupational specialty.

“I knew I wanted to do Army ROTC out of high school, so I was primarily judging colleges based on their ROTC programs. UCF’s program blew away the competition,” the cadet said. “The instructors at UCF took the time to talk to me about my aspirations and goals, even when I was only visiting as a high school senior. This level of caring and dedication to developing young leaders is unmatched anywhere else I looked. The choice to attend UCF was a no-brainer.”

Benedix said he is motivated to succeed because of all his corps’ instructors at UCF.

“Major (David) Jones has created a competitive training environment where being merely good isn’t good enough,” he said. “We are always being evaluated and compared to our peers and our previous performance so there is always incentive to grow as leaders, soldiers and citizens.”

ROTC is more than just a class, Benedix said, listing all the activities cadets are involved in, such as training, labs, volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, socials and trips.

“All of my best friends are in ROTC. There is no better program at UCF to bond people together toward a single cause than Army ROTC.”