Higher and Brighter: Chavis, Cooper sign with Army

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

On Thursday, May 2, Jefferson Somerset held its second annual military signing day, which is an opportunity for the school to recognize the students who are pledging their lives to service in the United States military following graduation.
Last year was the first year that the high school held the event, and the May 2 signing day was equally attended by teachers and students who gathered in the Jefferson Somerset gym in order to applaud, congratulate and support the signing cadets.
On May 2, Tahja Chavis and Yu'Nijha Cooper, two seniors who have served within the school's JROTC program for a number of years, were recognized for signing on with their respective branches of military service.
The signing day ceremony began with the presentation of the colors by the Jefferson Somerset JROTC Color Guard, a performance of the National Anthem by Tomura Byrd-Mathis, and a welcoming presentation by JROTC CSM Tavorice Tice.
After welcoming everyone to the ceremony remarked on the remarkable progress that had brought Jefferson Somerset to hosting their second annual signing day for graduates who had sought out military enrollment.
“This day is truly a mark of success for this school,” declared Tice.
After Tice's presentation, Army Staff Sergeant Handy presented Cadet Yu'Nijha Cooper with a $96,000 education check under the Montgomery GI bill.
“I have known Yu'Nijha since she was in the tenth grade,” said Sgt. Handy. “This is a very momentous occasion.”
During the summer, Cooper had enlisted in the United States Army as a 42 Alpha Human Resources Specialist.
Following her graduation from Jefferson Somerset, Cooper will be heading off to receive her basic training and advance individual training at Fort Jackson, located in South Carolina.
Next, Major Simpson with the FAMU Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) announced that Cadet Tahja Chavis' will be receiving a three-year scholarship to FAMU, which will include her classroom studies, as well as room and board at FAMU.
“We will challenge you to be a leader, we will challenge you to show and demonstrate what it means to be a leader in the United States and in the United States Army,” said Maj. Simpson. “There will be a lot of things that you've never done before, but you will accept that and go beyond what we ask of you.”
Cooper thanked Sgt. Handy, her family, teachers and peers as well as Jefferson Somerset JROTC's 1st Sgt. Terry Walker.
“This is going to be a great journey,” said Cooper. “I'm excited to learn more and experience new things.”
When taking the mic to provide her own expression of thanks, Chavis remained honest as she expressed her own sense of wonder over receiving her FAMU scholarship under the university's ROTC program.
“I did not except to get this scholarship at all, honestly,” said Chavis, before thanking Jefferson Somerset JROTC's Maj. McDaniel for pushing her to apply for the scholarship and do her best in JROTC. She also thanked her family and 1st Sgt. Walker.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for me and I thank all of you that pushed me.”
After the two signing graduates had taken their seats, Maj. McDaniel and 1st Sgt. Walker provided their own words of encouragement and praise to the two young ladies.
Firstly, Maj. McDaniel reminded the gathered audience of peers how great and magnificent the sacrifice that Chavis and Cooper were undertaking was.
“They are going to serve and sometimes, they will end up in places they didn't want to go, they will be stationed in places they don't want to be stationed,” said Maj. McDaniel, reminding everyone that the two singing peers may end up in an “unfamiliar place, strapped down into body armor, doing whatever they will have to do.”
He also provided words of encouragement to the two signees.
“This is a big obligation. Wherever you go, make the best of it,” he emboldened to them, strongly offering his words of advice that while serving, they should make every attempt to experience new cities, to learn more about locals, to “experience something they hadn't experienced” and use their time of service as a time to learn more about themselves as well as the world and their country.
1st Sgt. Walker offered praise to Chavis and Cooper and encouraged them to have courage through their upcoming course of life.
“There is no greater love than for someone who would lay down their life – that is the love you are giving to our country, our community,” he declared, further stating that he has enjoyed the years of service as their 1st Sergeant, watching them grow up and become why they were meant to be.
1st Sgt. Walker also inspired them to remain 'very excited' for what lies before them.
“We are all very excited about your future. May God bless you and God keep you,” he concluded.
Last to speak was Jefferson Somerset Principal Cory Oliver, who is also a veteran.
In amongst his words of experience, which he imparted to the signees by helping them understand what the first few weeks of boot camp training will be like, he gave them words of encouragement, spoken by one who was once were they themselves are now.
“It will give you direction, it will give you purpose,” he declared. “It will really change your life and open your eyes.”
Further, Principal Oliver stated that their signing on with the United States military may be an “opportunity of a lifetime” that they may not fully understand as of that moment.
“It's not going to be easy,” he concluded, providing a touch of realistic truth and a renewed sense of purpose. “It's not supposed to be – nothing in life that's worth having is easy.”
Yu'Nijha Cooper is the daughter of Yulonda and Bernard Cooper.
Tahja Chavis is the granddaughter of Theola Scott.
Both signees will be leaving for their new posts following graduation from Jefferson Somerset, which will take place on Friday, May 31.