Prescott teacher is Air Force Academy liaison officer of the year
Cobi Brady said she knew she wanted to join the Air Force after she graduated from Monument Valley High School, but she never thought about attending the Air Force Academy until she met Air Force Reserves Col. Denny Peeples.
"When I met him, I was intimidated because he's a colonel," said Brady, a freshman at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, who earned a full scholarship to attend. "Then he told me about his experiences, and I thought I need to do this. He helped me every step of the way."
Peeples, who leads the Air Force JROTC and Aerospace Science Leadership Academy at Prescott High School, was recently named Air Force Academy Liaison Officer of the Year.
"The reason I do it is because when I was a kid someone helped me get an ROTC scholarship. I could not have gone to college without it," Peeples said. "I want to help young people pursue their dreams. You never know where the ripples of your influence will go."
In the past seven years, Peeples has helped 12 students go through the admissions process and earn full scholarships worth $450,000 to the Air Force Academy, mentored new liaison officers in the area, and led the only JROTC unit in the world that has earned the Distinguished Unit Award for six consecutive years.
While Peeples helps many local students apply to the Air Force Academy, he also frequently goes to 24 schools in remote areas of northern Arizona, including the Navajo Nation, to talk to students like Brady about opportunities at the academy.
"I had no idea about the academy," Brady said. "I was thinking when I graduated high school I would go to enlist in the Air Force. I have family who have served in the Navy, Marines and Army and I thought why not the Air Force."
Brady, who is majoring in civil engineering at the academy, said she also plans on becoming a pilot.
Stephanie Yazzie, who attends the Air Force Academy Prep School, said she looked up information about the academy during her junior year at Chinle High School and spoke to Peeples about it when he came to her school.
"It was a very tough decision to make, choosing the academy over a regular college," said Yazzie, who is interested in engineering but is still exploring the choices she has at the academy. "But he helped me throughout the entire application process, which is really long, and kept me on top of things."
Yazzie said when she learned she'd earned a scholarship to the academy, her family was "even more excited than I was," and that they have supported her decision every step of the way.
Another student Peeples helped was Prescott High School soccer star Heather Watts, who will graduate from the academy in May 2012. Peeples said that Watts sent him an email saying that she has gone to nine different countries during the course of her studies.
"The reason I can help these kids is that my principal, Ms. Totsy McCraley, supports the Air Force JROTC, and she wants to help these kids," Peeples said.
McCraley said she sees how the JROTC program helps shape students.
"His program is quite valuable not only to our school, but also to our community," McCraley said. "It's always impressive to see young men and young women who are respectful to each other, who are so responsible, who honor the flag, and who do so much community service."