Monroe High School senior, JROTC cadet attending leadership program

by Thomas Himes

Source: Los Angeles Daily News

When you ask James Monroe High School student Luz Gutierrez what she’s been doing for the past week, she’ll rattle off a long list of academic challenges and meetings with Oklahoma’s top state officials, a retired army general and an Olympic gold medalist.

Gutierrez, who’s enrolled in Monroe’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was selected as one of 50 students from around the nation and world to attend “Four Star Leadership with General Tommy Franks” in Oklahoma this week.

“It’s so intense; It’s really rigorous,” Gutierrez said. “We’re doing congressional debates; and we have to write about minimum wage and Obamacare and economic national growth versus the impact of gas emissions.”

But the highlight of Gutierrez’s journey so far, she said, has been her trip to the governor’s mansion where she met with the retired four-star general, Franks, along with Oklahoma’s Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb.

“The governor has a pool in her mansion; it’s in the shape of Oklahoma and it’s really neat,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez arrived in Oklahoma on Sunday for the week-long academy, which wraps up Saturday. She was selected from a field of 500 applicants to attend the program with students from 30 other states and two countries, Germany and Jordan.

Remarkably, Gutierrez is the second Monroe JROTC cadet to be accepted in two years, the school’s senior army instructor and retired Sgt. 1st Class Charles Mujica said.

“To me it’s astounding that a student from the same school would be selected from all over California,” Mujica said. “I was real happy she was picked, because I didn’t think we would stand a chance.”

The program aims to help build the leaders of tomorrow by, among other things, exposing kids to the top business and political leaders of today, General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum Director Warren Martin said.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to shake hands and meet these individuals who are leading our country and business.” Martin said. “One-on-one interactions with current leaders is really what makes this camp unique.”

Before the week is out, Gutierrez will have rubbed elbows with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, two-time Olympic Gold medalist Michele Smith, President and CEO of Musco Lighting Joe Crookham, a Pepsi executive, state representatives and others, Martin said.

When she’s not meeting leaders, the incoming senior is competing against her camp peers for $20,000 in college scholarships, which will be awarded to the best student in each of the following categories: congressional debate, persuasive writing, opinion-editorial writing and overall leadership.

As Gen. Franks would say, the idea is to teach students how to “disagree without being disagreeable,” Martin said.

Since starting in 2006, the leadership academy’s alumni have gone on to attend Ivy League universities and top military schools, including West Point and the Air Force Academy, Martin said.

“We’re looking for some great things to come from our alumni in years to come,” Martin said.