Two colonels get together to enhance Towson University, Baltimore County schools

Towson University is well known for producing terrific educators, many of whom we are lucky to have teaching in Baltimore County Public Schools. It’s good to know that TU is also creating a positive impact in the larger community with its BTU (Baltimore-Towson University) Initiative. The TU Athletic Department and BCPS Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) have made a great pair. One particular venture was launched when two retired Army colonels — Col. Michael Bennett, facilitator of the JROTC in the Office of Career & Technology Education at Baltimore County Public Schools, and Col. Will Huff, deputy director of Athletics at Towson University — joined forces to create a mentoring program.

Col. Bennett retired in September after 29 years in the Army and now supervises the 11 JROTC units of BCPS, which enroll about 1,500 students across programs at Chesapeake, Dundalk, Franklin, Kenwood, Lansdowne, Milford Mill Academy, Overlea, Parkville, Patapsco, Randallstown and Woodlawn high schools. Cadets are given structure in a program designed to build confidence and character, and create better citizens in the military and the workforce. Col. Huff and his TU student athletes present an opportunity to encourage pursuit of excellence.

The two colonels have worked together several times since the fall, bringing JROTC cadets to TU sports games and making them part of the event. In November, TU hosted hundreds of JROTC cadets, plus their families and instructors, for a football game against Rhode Island. At the Towson vs. Hofstra basketball game on Jan. 11, Team BCPS was recognized on-court and Franklin High’s JROTC Color Guard participated in the national anthem. For the Towson vs. Elon basketball game on Jan. 27, TU welcomed JROTC members as part of Military Appreciation Day festivities. The next collaborative event is a lacrosse game between TU and Duke, which will take place at noon Saturday.

To see proud cadets presenting colors on the court, or watch a line of 100+ uniformed JROTC members getting high-fives from the players on the field, is an exciting experience for everyone. The cadets feel the electricity of being part of a college event. And it’s a win-win, because the collegiate athletes feel pride in being seen as role models.

TU athlete volunteers also visit BCPS schools. In January, members of TU’s men’s basketball and women’s track teams visited Perry Hall Elementary. A towering 6-foot-5-inch basketball player entering an elementary classroom definitely has a “WOW” factor. More importantly, the visits are designed to create conversations about setting goals, persevering through struggles, reassessing goals and never giving up. In addition, TU swimming and diving athletes and members of the women’s volleyball team will soon be visiting Johnnycake Elementary School as mentors to inspire excitement for education and fuel dreams for the future.

Looking ahead, Col. Bennett and Col. Huff are already mapping out how to make their collaboration bigger and better. I thank both of these gentlemen for their service to our country, their commitment to education and their vision for the students in our community!

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