By Aisha I. Jefferson
Ellenwood resident Gloria Holloway and Jonesboro resident Therese Bowen have noticed that their sons have matured during the year they spent at the U.S. Air Force Preparatory School in Colorado.
"I noticed a difference in his overall being; he's responsible," Therese Bowen said about her 19-year-old son, Rudolph, who graduated from the prep school May 17.
Holloway said she noticed the same thing about her 18-year-old son Gyscar, who also graduated from the prep school last month.
"It's made me a sharp person," Gyscar Inocencia-Holloway said.
Inocencia-Holloway and Rudolph Bowen II graduated in 2004 from Stockbridge and Riverdale high schools, respectively.
Both young men received a nomination from District 13 U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Jonesboro, last year to attend the prep school, and were also nominated to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo. They will leave for the academy later this month.
Inocencia-Holloway and Bowen are among the five students from Henry and Clayton counties that Scott nominated, and who recently received appointments to attend military academies across the country. Scott initially nominated 17 individuals from throughout his Congressional district. Although the nomination is not a guaranteed admission into the academy students have to apply separately it is a critical point of the acceptance process, Scott explained.
Scott said every congressman and senator has the opportunity to make such nominations.
"I'm actually the first one from Riverdale High to go to a military academy," said Bowen, who recently spoke to a couple of ROTC classes at Riverdale High about his prep school experiences.
Bowen and Inocencia-Holloway said Operation Iraqi Freedom did not affect their decision to pursue a career with the Air Force.
"When I was in high school with the ROTC, I knew my future was going to be in the Air Force," Bowen said. "There are times when there's going to be war that's the profession I'm going into."
Inocencia-Holloway said he always wanted to be in the Air Force, adding, "war or no war, I would've went."
Inocencia-Holloway said some of his former high school classmates were worried about his choosing a military career.
"They were afraid of me getting sent away to the war, of getting killed," he said.
The young men will have to commit an additional five years with the Air Force upon graduating from the academy.
The three other appointees Scott nominated include Hampton resident Jonathan Dunn, 18, who will attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y.; Lovejoy resident Jeffrey Gamez, 18, who will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; and Jonesboro resident Patrick Saxby, 18, who also will attend West Point.
Saxby's appointment to West Point will not be affected by his participation in last month's vandalism of Jonesboro High School, according to David Johnson, Scott's senior staff member who is responsible for the military academy process. Saxby is one of seven boys, referred to as the Jonesboro Seven, who broke into the school, spray-painted graffiti on the wall, damaged school property and left dead animals in the cafeteria. The Jonesboro High graduates initially were charged with felony interference with government property, but the charges were later dropped, and the seven suspects were required to complete a pretrial intervention program instead. No charges will show up on a criminal background check if the young men complete the program.
Scott cited Saxby's excellent grades and life and said one small mistake should not affect his career. Saxby apologized for the mistake and is now prepared to move forward with his appointment.
The five appointees also were among the 133 from around Georgia whom Gov. Sonny Perdue recognized during Wednesday's military academy send-off held at the state Capitol.
"You're about to undergo a major life change in the next couple of months; I can tell you now, it's going to be tough. There will be days when you think you've bitten off more than you can chew," Perdue said in his address. "But on those days, remember these Academy graduates who are here with us today to show their support for you. Remember that they successfully met the same challenges you will face. And you can too."
Paid tuition for four years of school and top-notch training, along with other benefits, are among the many gains the appointees will receive while attending the military academies.
"It is a very, very highly valued education," Scott said, explaining if there was a dollar amount put on the whole package, economists, educators and military officials value it at around $300,000.
Johnson said Jonesboro High School graduate, Nicole Soto, 18, initially received a nomination to attend the Merchant Marine Academy but will spend a year at the academy's prep school. He also mentioned that Rex resident David Shea-Melloy received a four-year scholarship to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.