JROTC cadets are put to the test during Summer Leadership Challenge

Lt. Col. Rooker, who leads our Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program here at APS, is spent a week earlier this month with high school cadets during their annual summer camp at at Fort Benning!

The JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge is held near Columbus, GA at the Fort Benning Army base and gives our high school JROTC cadets a chance to test their endurance and stamina.  From citizenship-building exercises to learning military skills in a real military environment – our students push themselves and return home with a new perspective on learning and leadership.

Be sure to check out Col Rooker on Twitter at @rmrooker or https://twitter.com/rmrooker where he has posted lots of great photos and updates on our fearless students.  Nice job cadets!

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APS Employees Help Fill Over 2,400 Empty Stockings!

14 - 102Lt. Col. Rooker led me into Santa’s Village on APS volunteer day. It was great to see our staff helping families in need. Last month many of them donated money towards this cause, so it was cool to see how that donation manifested into this event.  All 30,000 square feet of this once-vacant retail space had been transformed to hold $1.2 million worth of toys.

In the showroom, volunteers helped parents pick out items based on their child’s age and gender. Each family was able to select two toys and a book. They also received three pairs of socks.

14 - 14I headed to the back and grabbed a cart to “shop” for selected items. Isaac Sparks from our Office of High Schools handed me a printout with items for one family. This is his third year as a volunteer and he says his favorite part is seeing the smiles on children’s faces. Backpack Bear sat front and center and helped find items to load the shopping cart.  Whew! This was hard work.  It took me a moment to get oriented – all of the rows of toys were carefully labeled, but I knew parents were waiting for their gifts in the lobby area, so I wanted to complete my task as quickly as possible.

14 - 23I headed to the delivery table time and time again. After filling about ten shopping carts, more APS volunteers double-checked orders and delivered them to patient parents. It was incredible to hear firsthand what this meant to them and witness their genuine appreciation.

A busload of Therrell High School JROTC cadets arrived and offered relief to the morning volunteers. It’s hard to believe APS employee participation day began accidentally. One year when the cadet service program was scheduled during final exams, CLL employees answered the last-minute plea to help. Boy did they deliver!

IMG_1216Now many employees say they look forward to helping out and plan to return next year. Bilingual Community Liaison Nina Reid called the whole experience humbling.

Families on the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services roster receive an invitation to Santa’s Village, and in many cases, these children are APS students. I met and talked to many APS families and it’s a great feeling to know they won’t have an empty stocking this year!

14 - 79We are proud to announce that volunteers and cadets serviced 2,435 kids yesterday, the largest one-day total of the year.  107 APS Central Office volunteers and 114 JROTC cadets from Therrell, N. Atlanta, S. Atlanta, and Douglass High Schools participated.

I am so grateful for this experience…just grateful.


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A Big Salute to Cadet McQuay and First Sergeant Venning!


Cadet Kimberly McQuay of Benjamin E. Mays High School, one of 29 cadets nationwide awarded this year’s Legion of Valor Medal.

Congratulations to Cadet Kimberly McQuay of Benjamin E. Mays High School, one of 29 cadets nationwide awarded this year’s Legion of Valor Medal.  She was one of only two from the state of Georgia.

LTC Robert Rooker, Director of Army Instruction, tells me it has been a great couple of months for APS JROTC, with First Sergeant (Dr.) Mona Venning from CSK winning the Army’s National JROTC Instructor of the Year back in July and now this honor for Cadet McQuay.

Thank you Principal Fowler of Mays High and Director of Army Instruction, LTC Rooker, for encouraging and supporting our students in the district’s JROTC program!