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High school students get leadership training at Fort Sill

By JOSH ROUSE

The Lawton Constitution

AP Member Exchange

LAWTON, Okla. — The future of Oklahoma leadership recently stepped into combat boots for a morning of training exercises at Fort Sill.

The 51 members of the 2019 Youth Leadership Oklahoma class arrived in the early morning hours at Fort Sill for physical training and other exercises. It was a major awakening for many of the youth — all of whom are entering their senior year of high school — who now have a greater appreciation of the military.

“We really want them to get the experience of military life and understanding what these young men and women go through to serve our country,” said Elizabeth Logan, adult and youth coordinator for Youth Leadership Oklahoma. “We want them to glean the leadership skills the military offers and get a taste of that. We know it’s a brief touch on the extensive full military experience and career, but some of them might be interested in this. It might spark that in them and give them a better appreciation of military services.”

The 2019 class includes two students from MacArthur High School — a rarity in the extremely exclusive program, which receives hundreds of applications each year. Makinley Kennedy, one of two MHS students in the program, told the Lawton Constitution that it’s a real testament to the hard work of the faculty and staff at the school.

“It’s a nice thing for our faculty and staff there,” she said. “It shows they’ve done well with their students and are grooming them to be great leaders in Oklahoma one day.”

Kennedy said she was looking forward to the physical training aspect of the Fort Sill visit. Two of her sisters have previously participated in Youth Leadership Oklahoma and had intense training. After going through the rigorous workout that involved exercise, long marching and even some bad weather, she feels she has the best story to tell now.

“I wanted to see how mine would be like and I have the best because I did it all in the rain,” Kennedy said. “I really wanted to see what it would be like and I like how my respect has grown immensely for those who serve our country.”

Kennedy was actually surprised by the exercise regimen. It wasn’t nearly as intense as she expected it to be. She was also surprised by how intense the drill sergeants were toward her and her fellow students. Even though they were toned down compared to how they treat real Army recruits, she felt intimidated.

“The yelling, I was not expecting,” Kennedy said. “I knew they would yell, but not to that degree. But obviously they know what needs to be done to have the military to serve our country.”

Kennedy still cherished her day at Fort Sill and her ongoing time as part of the program. She hoped to build new relationships with other members that she can utilize later in life. It’s also given her a greater appreciation of the state in which she lives.

“I really hope I’ve built relationships that will carry on throughout my life with people I can call whenever I need them,” Kennedy said. “I have an appreciation for my state and devotion, where I can work for the betterment of our communities across the state.”