Seniors Honored for Military Enlistment

Ellison HS seniors enlisting in the armed forces
By: Todd Martin

As high school students prepare to become graduates and enter a huge variety of post-secondary education options or employment, a few are preparing to defend their nation.
In a new ceremony with slight variations at Killeen ISD’s four comprehensive high schools and other specialized campuses, district, school and military leaders joined forces to recognize students committed to enlist in the armed forces.
Harker Heights High School recognized seniors heading into the branches of service during its scheduled academic recognition ceremony a week ago. Shoemaker High School did the same this week.
Ellison and Killeen high schools and the Career Center hosted specific signing ceremonies for military recruits this week and Pathways Academic Campus and Early College High School also honored students for choosing to enlist in the services.
For Nancy Duran, KISD Chief of College, Career and Military Readiness, the new student recognitions are powerfully personal.
“Military signings are new to KISD,” she said Wednesday during Ellison High School’s ceremony in the school auditorium. “We want to recognize students committed to serving. Your future service is coming sooner than you think.”
As a military veteran and a former teacher now guiding students’ pathways to future employment opportunities, Duran could speak easily on the profound nature of stepping into military service.
“Military service hasn’t always been viewed as a career choice,” she said. “This brings awareness to seniors who are qualified to serve. Less than 1 percent decide to serve. They are a special group.”
It was soldiers assigned to the Harker Heights recruiting office that first suggested a “signing day” opportunity for high school students along the lines of the popular athletics signing days for students celebrating earning athletic scholarships.
Jean Shine, Fort Hood area civilian aide to the secretary of the Army and U.S. Rep. John Carter partnered with KISD to bring the recognitions to reality.
The growing list of students enlisting in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army National Guard receive a red, white and blue honor cord that is approved to wear with cap and gown during commencement ceremonies.
Army Staff Sgt. Danita Cotton addressed students at the Ellison High School ceremony. She congratulated the group assembled in the school auditorium, pointing out they were within about two weeks of graduating from high school.
“It will be challenging,” she said. “Don’t give up. What you are doing for your country is a great choice.” She urged the students to use their knowledge and courage in serving.
Now an Army recruiter assigned to Ellison High School, Cotton said she joined the military at 18 years of age right out of high school. She said qualifying to serve is no easy task. Just about 20 percent of students in Central Texas who take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery meet academic and physical requirements.
“We want to reaffirm to these students they have made a great decision,” Duran said. “At some point in basic training, they will wonder why they did it. When they get into job acquisition, it will become more clear to them.”
“They don’t know, but we do and we want to encourage them. Also, we need them.”
KISD students honored for enlisting in the military includes the following:
Shoemaker High School honorees include Mason Alexander, Deborah Austin, Michael Blanco, Jamaliea Buckley, Alysa Costello, Aricah Culver, Taryn Eaglin, Everett Estell, Timothy Farr, Dwayne Giltug, Damen Hill, Gabreal Jones, Brandal Orona, Larry Sims, Alayna Streeter, Giovanni Toro and Jalen Tyson.
Pathways Academic Campus honorees include Latoya Alokoa, Shamya Smith and Jacorie Vinson.
Killeen High School honorees include Alexander Blum Ramos, Anthony Clemente, Brian Jessamy, Hamdan Mohammed, Tyler Rush, Tyler Starkey, Jean Cerezo, Fred Dumaop, Matthew McKenzie, Nathaniel Metoyer, Hamdan Mohammed, Armando Montelongo, Alusky Mouton, Alyssa Narvaez, Sharod Parker, Aiden Rice, Nichol San Nicolas, Ciara Shepard, Bijon Wilkerson, Nia Williams, Jahymes Williams and Kaylah Wilson.
Early College High School honorees include Gavin Courchesne.
Ellison High School honorees include Stormi Andrade, Alexis Hernandez, Mackenzie Naquin, Ryan Robinson, Crystal Rodriguez, Marco Rosario, Daniel Strong, Tanisha Walker, Jasmine Watkins, Jazmyne Wilson, Steven Guauque, Cedric Johnson, Jason Levalley and Joel Smith.
Killeen ISD Career Center honorees include Anthony Clemente, Jason Levalley, Sharod Parker, Joel Smith, Shamya Smith, Alayna Steeter, Jacorie Vinson, Bijorn Wilkerson, Nathaneil Metoyer and Chantea Noble. Some of these students were honored at their traditional campus, too.
Harker Heights High School honorees include Cody Baker, Kahlil Felder, Jaden Taylor, Hezekiah Robinson, Avery Schroeder, Christian Jobin, Shamya Smith and Jonathan King.