Fishing skills

Top of Westside Demonstrating Leadership Skills State and region


Ashton Brown thought she might want a career in the military and maybe the Future Leaders program at Westside High would give her some insight.

“I knew Jim Cook,” she said, adding that he had taken photos of sporting events she had attended.

Cook, who retired from the Air Force in 2008, is the program’s instructor.

“I’ve always wanted to go into the military, and thought it would give me a bit of experience before I enlisted,” said Brown, who is in his final year at Westside High School.

Similar to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), the West Virginia Future Leaders Program (FLP) is a high school leadership program designed not only to instill leadership skills, but also to promote good citizenship, foster academic excellence and teach life skills such as healthy lifestyles, financial literacy, career guidance, and many more.

In cooperation with schools, the National Guard designs the curriculum, which also includes military topics such as map reading and land navigation, history, exercises and ceremonies, hierarchy and rank, and physical fitness , among others.

The instructors are veterans, trained and employed by the West Virginia Military Authority.

Brown enrolled in the course in second year.

“I fell in love with it,” she says.

Recognizing her leadership skills, Cook recently promoted her to captain, placing her in charge of the 96 students enrolled in the program this year.

It’s the highest honor a student can earn under the program, Cook explained.

“I induct a senior every year to be the captain,” Cook said.

Much like the military hierarchy, Brown has four lieutenants under his command, Cook said.

Every student in the program can earn a rank, but they are and not all students do, he said.

Last year, Brown was unable to take the course due to scheduling conflicts during the regular school day, Cook noted, but she spent more time on FLP projects than many students enrolled in. the lesson.

Community projects are a big part of the program, said Brown, and she has participated in several since joining the program.

Students built rockets, helped out at the Wyoming County Veterans Memorial in Oceana, created a book naming all of the county’s veterans, and held flag-removal ceremonies.

Currently, students are working on a grant to fund the construction of a fishing pier at RD Bailey Lake Campground for disabled veterans and are trying to come up with a name for it, she said.

Students also help distribute food to needy families at a local food bank, which transports the food around the county.

In addition, they place flags at the graves of veterans at Palm Memorial Gardens on each Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

“(The program) engages children in the community,” said Brown. “It prepares them for the world outside of school.”

Brown believes that a good leader is someone who is willing to help other students and that other students can look up to.

“You have to take care of your people. You should be prepared to get your hands dirty with them, ”she said.

“You should be prepared to do whatever you ask them to do. “

As she nears graduation, Brown has changed her mind about joining the military. Instead, she decided to pursue studies in conservation or wildlife management, but has not yet chosen a university. Because she enjoys both the outdoors and animals, Brown thinks either of these activities would suit her better.

When it comes to the Future Leaders program, Brown believes it has provided him and other students with invaluable experiences and skills that will serve them beyond the classroom and into the real world.