Embracing life with discipline, courage and perseverance
September 12, 2015. It may have been an ordinary day for most people. But for me, this day would begin a pivotal shift in my life. As I raised my right hand, I pledged to join the National Guard of the Air Force. I soon became a stronger man, with many new skills and ready to protect my country.
I graduated from Varina High School in the top 100 with a 3.5 GPA. I had the academic ability to attend many four-year institutions, but decided to take the unconventional route and enlist. The opportunity to become a more well-rounded person through experiences gained in the military was too good to pass up.
Following graduation, I went through eight weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. During that time, I earned several distinguished accolades, and most importantly, the respect of my peers. I completed my Tech School training at Fort Lee, where I was chosen as the highest-ranking airman in a graduating class of 300. My current assignment is at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, where I earned two Member-of-the-Month awards and a quarterly Airman-of-the-Year award in 2017.
Following my training at Fort Lee, I was ready to attend college. Richard Bland College of William & Mary was the perfect place for me to become re-acclimated with school after a twoyear hiatus. I joined the RBC Honors program to challenge myself academically. I was determined to be a successful college student.
Attending RBC was a great decision. The academics have been challenging. I have made new friends and enjoy a variety of learning and social activities.
In spring 2018, I earned a 4.0 GPA. Even as a full-time student at RBC, I still have duties in the Air National Guard. My hours are flexible, allowing me to work a parttime job at Kroger.
I will graduate RBC in May. I am considering three transfer options, including William & Mary, the University of Richmond and Virginia Tech. With my military training, I could become a commissioned officer in the Air Force, or a civilian federal employee working in business or communications.
Wherever my path leads, I will continue to embrace life with discipline, courage, and perseverance.
Jalen Harris is a member of the Richard Bland College of William & Mary Class of 2019. This Statesman Scholar is also a member of the Air National Guard.