For Yosemite High Cadet Corps 1st Lt. Samantha Archer, marching in Friday’s Veterans Day Parade in downtown Fresno is a way to honor her family and those who have given all.
“My family has served and this is my way to serve,” the 17-year-old said.
Samantha seeks to honor her grandfather and great-grandfather, both who served in the U.S. Navy. She also honors her 20-year-old brother, Anthony Archer, who is in the 101st Airborne Infantry.
Samantha’s father, Dave Archer, is an Army veteran who enlisted in 1989 and served in positions such as tank commander and medic. He now teaches at Yosemite and Roosevelt high schools in the Regional Occupation Program and is head of the Yosemite High Cadet Corps, holding the rank of command sergeant major.
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Samantha wants to enroll in community college before entering a four-year university and becoming a military psychologist.
More students enter college after having served in the cadet corps at her high school, Samantha said. Of five seniors in the unit, C/Maj. Chandler Clark has his eyes fixed on entering the West Point Military Academy. Four other seniors, including C/Cmdr. Kael Mazzola, plan to enter the Marine Corps after high school, Samantha says.
Samantha is a junior and the highest-ranking female in her cadet unit. She said that while most people may never experience serving in the military or marching down a parade route, her 42-member unit, dressed in their decorated Bravo uniforms displaying ribbons for good grades and rigorous tasks, does it with humility.
The cadet-run class teaches the students responsibility and accountability.
“We have seniors who are commanders, who have jobs and have cadet work they have to do, so you have to learn how to manage your time,” Samantha said.
The cadets undergo a busy schedule met with physically challenging activities. The school’s block scheduling for classes gives the unit a chance to do classroom work and outside training. Mondays and Wednesdays are spent in class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the unit performs its physical training.
Some of the exercises are not found in normal PE – like crawling through grass and getting wet and dirty. “That’s what gets them excited; that’s what makes them want to crawl through the mud,” Mazzola said. “It’s our own culture.”
Junior C/Sgt. Noah Williams, one of two cadet physical trainers, says the regimen is based on Army regulations. Running up stadium benches, around the field and breaking the unit into small groups for pushups or situps are part of the physical fitness activities the unit does.
Cadets also learn how to read maps, take proper care of flags and act with military courtesy and respect, Samantha said.
Senior student leaders
Archer, 45, believes the few seniors he has in the cadet corps this year have run the unit well.
“If I’ve done it correctly, I’m really just mentoring the seniors, who are then mentoring the junior leaders, who are then mentoring the first-year cadets,” Archer says.
He mostly keeps his hands off the lessons and trainings the cadets construct. He says the program only works if he gives the students a real sense of accountability.
Friday’s parade march is one of those ways the cadets enjoy a different atmosphere, and Samantha said they must impress. After all, she said, they are honoring men and women who have given all in the fight for freedom, she says.
“This is me saying thank you to them, marching around town for (veterans),” Samantha said. “There isn’t really a limit for me to show my appreciation for them.”