COOLIDGE – For Captain Gavin Abraham, this has been a good month.
Not only has the 16-year-old student been made captain of his own platoon, he is one of only three in the State of Arizona to be accepted to the Senior Leadership Cape Stone Camp, an elite leadership camp in Kentucky, by the Coolidge High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
It’s no small thing, because in the entire United States only 20 young people have been invited out of the many who applied.
“I was just really excited (when I found out),” Abraham said. “I was like, I can’t believe I actually got chosen out of 114 cadets. It made me feel good about what I’ve done and in my achievements and … it shows that I’ve been becoming a better leader.”
To be invited, Abraham was judged on three merits: grades, physical fitness and leadership ability. Abraham’s commanding officer, 1st Sergeant Daniel Ramirez, who teaches ROTC at Coolidge, said Abraham is ready for a challenge like this.
“He’s got a lot of good things that stand out,” Ramirez said. “He wants to be a Marine officer. He’s very much on line to be one of the those students who is just doing outstanding work.”
Abraham became interested in ROTC after he went to a summer seminar between eighth and ninth grades outlining what ROTC is, which he really enjoyed so he joined. Then he discovered a genuine interest in leadership skills, which are emphasized in class.
“The whole purpose of JROTC, an officer is supposed to be a leader so it teaches you about leadership and teaches you how to be a better person,” he said.
Abraham said he also really likes the lifestyle, ordered but with a purpose.
“It sets a certain example,” he said. “There are people who think, ‘Oh, I’ll join it and I’ll just do this and this.’ No, you have to follow these (rules) to be able to rank up. There are set requirements you have to be able to pass.”
For instance, “to go from lance corporal to corporal, you have to be able to march a squad. If you can’t march a squad you won’t be promoted,” he added.
You also have to be in good standing with your grades.
“First Sergeant (Ramirez), he doesn’t want us to think ROTC is everything, (that) grades don’t matter,” Abraham said. “He likes A, B standing to be able to promote. That way he knows you’re taking school seriously.”
At the camp, Abraham will be kept busy learning to be a better leader with feedback from the instructors. But he won’t just be challenged physically. He will have to work out leadership puzzles.
“There’s one (activity) where you have to get your squad under a rope but you also have to carry these buckets and you can’t pour them or they will explode,” Abraham said. “Well, they won’t actually explode, but you have to think about who can carry the buckets across and how you’ll get all your squad under there. It helps you to understand what a leader has to go through.”
The camp takes place the second week of June and lasts five days. Abraham will fly to Missouri, then bus to the camp in Kentucky. Abraham says he’s excited but admits he’s a bit nervous, too.
“I’ve never flown before,” he said.