by WHS AFJROTC Booster Club
Walking through ornately carved double doors into a quietly lit entry, Waller High School (WHS) Air Force JROTC (AFJROTC) Cadet Sidney Kahla was excited to see her friends smiling and talking, decorative lights twinkling a glowing invitation. Cadets and honored guests mingled for Social Hour, the young men in formal uniform and young ladies radiant in formal dresses.
“It reminded me of a ballroom in one of those princess movies,” Kahla said with a smile thinking of the recent WHS AFJROTC Military Ball.
Earlier that same day, more than a dozen of those same cadets and parents spent hours preparing the venue by moving tables and chairs, meticulously arranging place settings. They ensured every detail of their “A Night Under the Stars” themed event was perfect for their friends and teammates.
Like many school organizations, the AFJROTC cadets faced many disappointments and obstacles since COVID-19 emerged in early 2020. Competitions were cancelled. Practices were socially distanced and masked. Many online learners did not have transportation to attend class or practice. After fundraising and honing their skills all year, Drill teams were devastated when the 2020 Air Force Championships were cancelled.
Drill team cadets practice 15-20 hours per week in all weather conditions, and yet this student-led organization managed to remain focused and eager for even the possibility to compete. When cadets were advised they would be allowed to hold the Military Ball in the 2021 school year, the instructors, Booster Club, and parents went into overdrive to create a memorable event for these dedicated students.
When Caroline Schreiber, owner of Hempstead’s own Ambrosia Crossing event center, was approached about donating her venue to host the 2021 Military Ball for WHS’s AFJROTC, she did not hesitate to say yes! The venue is picturesque with a capacity for 350 guests that features multiple indoor and outdoor locations for events, seating, and intimate conversations in a rustic, romantic setting with upscale, classic décor.
“I had a lot of fun and thought the Military Ball went very well, even regarding the pandemic and all the precautions we had to take,” WHS AFJROTC Cadet Isaiha Rivas said.
In addition to the donated venue, several other local businesses contributed to making the Military Ball a success. Vidrio Inspired Productions generously provided a stunning array of table settings, floral arrangements, candelabras, and lighting. Joe’s Italian Grill delivered individually packaged meals, salads, and all accoutrements to create a hearty, delicious meal. Mark Bishop provided karaoke and DJ entertainment, creating hours of fun and laughter for the cadets.
The AFJROTC is a program designed to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community. WHS AFJROTC cadets provide hundreds of hours of volunteer service to the Waller ISD community each year. Young men and women gain an understanding of responsibility, self-discipline, accountability, and accomplishment. In addition to the core curriculum, students can choose to join teams such as Armed and Unarmed Drill teams, Orienteering, Archery, Physical Training, Marksmanship, and Racketeering.
“JROTC helped me learn discipline. I would like to enlist in the Air Force, and JROTC helps prepare me for it,” Warhawks Armed Drill Team Commander Justin Benassi said.
While AFJROTC is a student-led program, the cadets are guided, encouraged, and trained by WHS instructors Lieutenant Colonel Byrl Engel (retired) and Master Sergeant Lynn Barnett (retired).
April 2021 marked a unique accomplishment for WHS AFJROTC. Both Drill teams made one of many trips to San Antonio where the Warhawks Armed Drill Team clinched the Texas State Championship title at the Sandra Day O’Connor State Drill Meet. This was the first time a WHS AFJROTC Drill team has earned this title.
In May 2021, the Warhawks Armed Drill Team and Phantoms Unarmed Drill Team traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida for the National High School Drill Team Championships. This competition is open to JROTC teams from all branches of the armed forces. The WHS cadets came home with fourteen trophies including Stephanie DeLeon, second place Top Unarmed Commander, and Justin Benassi, second place Top Armed Commander. Warhawks and Phantoms placed second in Regulation Drill, and Phantom II placed second in Unarmed Tandem Drill. WHS instructors and parents are incredibly proud of these young teams as they competed against the best of the best at the national level.
Events such as National High School Drill Championships, Military Ball, and volunteer service are made possible by assistance from family, friends, and our local sponsors. The WHS AFJROTC Parent Booster Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit and conducts several fundraising events throughout the year. This status provides tax-deductible donation and sponsorship opportunities for families and businesses to support these students. One hundred percent of all fundraising directly supports the WHS AFJROTC. To learn more about the WHS AFJROTC visit http://wisd.fyi/
“We want to thank all those donors and sponsors who have helped our cadets continue to succeed this year,” Karen Okabayashi said on behalf of the WHS AFJROTC Booster Club members.
WHS AFJROTC is now turning its focus to bringing home the 2022 National Championship!