It’s easy to look at today’s generation of teenagers and say they are babied, selfish to the point of entitlement, disrespectful, and oversensitive. Perhaps some of that is true. But I’d like to prove to you, there are still many, many absolutely fantastic teenagers! Today I have the privilege of sharing some of seven-teen-year-old, Matt McHenry’s story.
When Matt was a sophomore, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps of military service. The trouble was, Matt’s school didn’t offer the typical programs such as ROTC or Cadet Corps designed to help prepare students for service in the armed forces. But this didn’t stop Matt.
He decided to do something about it.
A part of ASB since Junior High (VP), Matt knew he would need support if he wanted to accomplish getting a military program started from the ground up at his school. He spoke with interested students, teachers, and school leaders—one of which is now a superintendent. He pointed out how his school offered different career pathways like medical and engineering, so why not something for those interested in serving our country?
Matt was told there was a ten-year standstill to get a military program like ROTC started. Rather than give up, he chose to keep pressing on.
There was desire and need. He was determined to make it happen.
The school’s Vice Principal rewarded Matt’s tenacity by introducing him to a teacher, Mr. Bravo who decided to help. Together they established an after-school program that began as a Prep Club. Forty-five kids showed up to the first meeting. Mr. Bravo, having served in the military himself, introduced the kids to their first PT (physical training) on the spot. The next meeting only ten students showed up. Of course, these were the students who truly were looking for military preparation.
Around this same time, Matt’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
He and his family watched her go through chemotherapy and surgery with positivity and bravery.
“She’s a fantastic person with a golden philosophy for life. And that was even before going through breast cancer,” Matt said. “Few people are like her. She’s incredible and a fighter. She’s inspired and encouraged me.” Much to Matt’s relief, his mom remains cancer-free and still very much a driving force in his life.
Today Matt is a senior and the commander of the Prep Club. He and Mr. Bravo have continued to expand the program they started from scratch. Each of the 60 members now has uniforms, a chain of command, and an Operations Hand Book which Matt himself just finished writing.
“My goal is to leave this school better than I found it.”
Outside of school, Matt is working towards the qualifications for his pilot’s license. He either wants to join the Air Force or the Navy. He’s looking into all of his options including what it takes to get into the prestigious United States Military Academy West Point.
“My dad served in the army. I feel obligated to serve and do my part for my country to help make this world a better place,” Matt says.
Who would know better than a teenager himself, how difficult it can be? Matt sees the struggles his peers face and considers himself fortunate to have great parents and support from his school. When I asked him for some words of advice for teenagers, this is what he said:
“Keep going. Don’t give up. There’s brighter days ahead past high school. Find the thing you’re passionate about, that fills you with joy. What inspires you?
Find out and do it.”
Inspiring words from a seventeen-year-old that can help anyone no matter the age.
I hope this article was as inspirational for you to read as it was for me to write.
DO YOU HAVE A COMMENT FOR MATT OR ABOUT WHAT OUR TEENS ARE FACING TODAY? Please share in the comments below.
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