Dalton High School seniors Perla Sandoval and Jacqueline Bautista were excited that their family and friends got to witness a momentous occasion in their lives on May 17. Although they had already taken their oaths of enlistment at the Military Entrance Processing Station, they had the opportunity to sign their contracts to join the United States National Guard after graduation in front of their loved ones at a signing day celebration.
"I am glad Sergeant Major Vazquez allowed this day to happen," said Sandoval. "Him being here, along with the people that are there for me at all times, really does mean a lot."
Five students joined representatives from the National Guard and a family member or friend of their choosing to sign their contract. They are Bautista, Sandoval, Ruby Mendez, Adriana Ramirez-Huitanda and Dharian Antonio. One student received more than $45,000 in tuition money and the others received approximately $100,000 combined to put toward their education.
Principal Steve Bartoo pushed for the day to happen because the school had not hosted a formal signing day for the armed forces in years past, and he knows how important it is to celebrate the occasion. "This is a great transition plan for a student. They have worked hard to achieve all of this," he said. "I am proud of each and every one of them for choosing this next step in their lives."
Four of the five students committing were cadets in the high school's JROTC program. Bautista explained that she has been looking forward to this day since she started high school and joined the program, as JROTC prepared her with the skills she needs.
"We work on leadership, public speaking and time management skills which has really benefited us for the future," she said. "The fact that we are so involved in not just the school but out in the community is my favorite part of being in this program. We have so many things people look up to us for."
With the national guard, the students will have a full ride in tuition to any public college or university in the state of Georgia. Sandoval plans to attend the Georgia Military College and then pursue her degree in early childhood education. Bautista will take advantage of her education benefits and start her journey to becoming a doctor at the University of North Georgia.
In return, they'll always be there to help their community in the case of a hurricane, natural disaster, terrorism or the like.