They haven’t even started their first year of high school, but career prospects are already on the minds of at least one group of students from North Augusta, South Carolina.
Nine rising ninth graders from the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce Junior Leadership Academy kicked off a three-week summer program with their first session being held at Fort Gordon on July 13.
According to the chamber’s website, the JLA is “a program designed to promote leadership development by helping teens identify their own characteristics, personality traits, and strengths to best understand how they can be successful in any area of their choosing.” One way it does this through a curriculum that exposes students to various careers and gives them opportunities to interact with community leaders.
President and CEO of the chamber’s JLA, Terra Carroll, said it felt great to be back at Fort Gordon after having to take off last year due to the pandemic.
“It’s a commitment from them,” she explained. “That’s part of leadership, committing to programs like this for enrichment and giving up some other things over the summer.”
Carroll also said she was excited to have Fort Gordon as the group’s first stop in its three-week summer program, noting at least half of the students had never visited Fort Gordon prior to that day.
Carroll reached out to Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Bryant Jr., who previously assisted with the military session during the JLA’s inaugural year in 2019.
“Most have never been on a military installation, so just to get behind the doors and see what life is like on a military base and just give them another option so when they graduate high school, they can say they have options,” Bryant said.
Students began their day outside with a variety of teambuilding activities hosted by Lorrie Chadd, Fort Gordon’s Warrior Adventure Quest program coordinator. Chadd led them through archery tag, a group challenge called 3D Bull Ring, and a bucket tower challenge. The latter two required everyone to “think outside the box,” and communicate with each other.
“They find out quickly that it takes every single person to complete the tasks,” Chadd said.
Following the WAQ, students fired simulated weapons at the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, ate lunch at the Main Exchange, then finished the day with a windshield tour of Fort Gordon. One of the main hopes Bryant said he had was for students to share their experiences with family and friends.
“They can go back and tell their parents some of the great things that are going on base. It’s a win-win for these kids and for the community at large,” Bryant said.
Even greater, he said, would be for the students to look back on their brief time at Fort Gordon fondly and consider joining the military as a result of their experience.
“I actually had three youth from the first iteration reach out to me about pursuing a career in the military,” Bryant said. “But no matter where they decide, this helps with communication skills, teambuilding … developing how to work together whether in the military or civilian sector.”