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Isabella Arrieta Thrives on Mock Trial Team

By Operation Homefront

April 1, 2024

Isabella Arrieta Named Military Child of the Year® for Marine Corps

Isabella Arrieta, Operation Homefront’s 2024 Military Child of the Year® for the Marine Corps, aspires to become a criminal defense attorney, and she isn’t waiting for law school or even college to get experience in the field. 

Isabella, 17, is the daughter of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Arrieta, an aircraft mechanic instructor with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit North Island, and Denise Arrieta, who works as an alternative education clerk. She has a 12-year-old sister.  

A senior at Chaparral High School in Temecula, California, she volunteers with a local peer court program that offers juveniles a hands-on understanding of the judicial system, including roles from juror to attorney. She also cultivates her knowledge of the law through an internship at a local firm and through competing on her school’s Mock Trial team. 

Isabella returned home from a Mock Trial competition to the news that she had been chosen for the Military Child of the Year (MCOY) award.  

“I was absolutely exhausted,” she said. “You can imagine my surprise when I came home to a house full of balloons, a cake, and an email saying I was chosen.” 

Being the daughter of a Marine taught Isabella to value time with her parents, a lesson she shares with other military children. 

Though Isabella did not experience frequent moves common to military families, she remembers her father’s absences. During three deployments, totaling 36 months, her main contact was through recordings of him reading stories. When he was assigned to a recruiting office three hours away from home, she rarely saw him during the week. 

“There will be times when you hardly see your parent, if at all,” she said. “It’s so important to enjoy the free time they have so you can maintain a strong bond with them.” 

Despite the difficulties faced by military families, Isabella appreciates the benefits, particularly in terms of education.  

“As a military child in California, it’s an incredible feeling to know that I can attend college without taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt,” she said. 

One of her most cherished memories of being a military child is of pinning her father’s uniform during his last promotion ceremony, a moment that underscored the pride she feels for her family’s service and the sacrifices that come with it. 

“I was so proud to be his daughter,” Isabella recalled. She equally admires her mother for her role in supporting the family through financial challenges and periods of separation due to her father’s deployments.  

“She is the reason my dad was able to work so much to bring my family to financial stability, the reason I’ve been able to deal with my dad’s absences, and the reason I became the person I am today.” 

An honor student and captain of the varsity cross country team, Isabella has devoted 865 hours to clubs, sports, and volunteer work in the past year. She aspires to attend a University of California and major in legal studies and economics.  

Operation Homefront’s MCOY program, now in its 16th year, recognizes outstanding teens in each branch of the armed forces for criteria that include their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, and extracurricular involvement while facing the challenges of military family life.  

Collectively, the seven 2024 MCOY recipients logged 3,667 volunteer hours in the 12 months before nominations. Altogether, they have experienced 37 permanent changes of station and lived through 247 months of deployments.   

The Military Child of the Year honorees will be recognized at a gala in Washington, D.C., in April, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards. Award recipients also will receive $10,000 each, a laptop computer, and other donated gifts. 

Service/Leadership Highlights 

  • First high school research intern at National Latino Research Center  
  • Legal intern, Semnar & Hartman 
  • Women in Law founder and president; hosted Criminal Justice Conference 
  • Speech and Debate founder and president 
  • Mock Trial captain; team earned third in Riverside County 
  • Southwest Valley Youth Court attorney and juror 
  • Captain, varsity girls cross country team 
  • Member, Temecula Youth Advisory Council 

Favorite Quote: 

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale 

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