YES Prep Public Schools
Samantha Ramirez
Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11 to honor those who served in the military. This day holds historical significance as it originally commemorated the armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918, but over the years, its meaning has evolved to honor all veterans who have selflessly defended our country. This year, we invited YES Prep veterans to share why they chose to join the military and to offer advice to students who may be considering that pathway post high school graduation.

Tyrone Eugene, YES Prep Northline Secondary

Tyrone Eugene is a behavior support specialist at Northline Secondary. From September 1996 through May 2009, Eugene served in the United States Air Force.

When asked what advice he has for those students considering joining the military, he said, “Stay focused on why you are even considering it. Was it to try something new? To go places you never imagined you’d be or to get away from bad situations or circumstances? There will be times when you miss family and friends, but the new friends and the new opportunities outweigh all of that. You can always visit family, but military opportunities are once in a lifetime.”

Eugene also shared that while he did experience challenging times during this service, he wouldn’t change a thing because those 23 years brought the best friendships and memories!

Renettia Foreman, YES Prep North Forest Secondary

Renettia Foreman is a college counselor at North Forest Secondary. From 2001 through 2009, Foreman served in the United States Army.

Foreman chose to serve in the military “to learn, to live, create and exist beyond the walls, community, economic, cultural and geographical areas I was raised in. I have travelled and lived in various places, met amazing lifelong friends and gained newer outlooks on life, culture and freedom and I have never looked back or regretted these experiences.”

For students considering joining the military, Foreman shared the following advice, “Research diligently, because joining the military is a lifetime commitment; be patient when starting the process, trust your instincts, dig deep, leave it all on the table, and prepare for an exciting, challenging, and rewarding journey into adulthood.”

Thomas Gomez, YES Prep White Oak Secondary

Thomas Gomez is a U.S. History teacher at White Oak Secondary. From August 1999 through December 2011, Gomez served in the United States Army.

On the reason why Gomez joined the miliary, he shared that after the 9/11 attacks, he stayed to fight the War on Terror. For students considering the military as a pathway, he shared “Make sure you prepare yourself mentally. They easy part is all physical.”


Clara Golden, YES Prep White Oak Secondary

Clara Golden is a math interventionist at White Oak Secondary. Golden has been serving in the United States Army National Guard since 2021; Golden is an active-duty service member.

Golden joined the military to “give my daughter a chance at a better supported life when she is older and for them to pay off my college loans. I love guiding new soldiers. Feel free to contact me for advice!”

Golden’s advice for students considering joining, “Do your research! It’s very teacher-like of me to say but I joined the army because other branches didn’t have what I was looking for. Find your purpose/reasons for joining and do research on which branch will support you the best (in the long run too). They will have your time and energy for an entire contract so choose wisely!”

Lisa Graves, YES Prep White Oak Secondary

Lisa Graves is a sixth-grade math teacher at White Oak Secondary. From 1997 through 2001, Graves served in the United States Air Force as a Technical Sergeant.

Graves chose to serve her country through the Air Force “because at the age of 24, I had attended college and still felt that my life was missing something. I began to speak with different branches and discussed the opportunities each branch had to offer. I took the ASVAB which is an Aptitude Test for the U.S. Armed Forces and decided to join the United States Air Force.  At age 24, while I thought I was grown, I was lacking guidance and joining was the best decision that I have ever made.”

Graves’ advice to students, “Take a chance! In my family we didn't discuss military at all, and I feel that there are a lot of opportunities being missed. I had never been away from my family and enjoyed every moment of it. I got to travel and experience places that I had never been. The most important thing was I met people from all over and the bonds and relationships that I built over the years is priceless and let's not forget that they pay for your education!”

Dustin Mikkelson, YES Prep East End Secondary

Dustin Mikkelson is the athletic director at East End Secondary. From July 2006 through October 2012, he served in the United States Army.

Mikkelson shared that 9/11 is the reason he enlisted. “I made a promise to myself to graduate college and then enlist! I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically by becoming a Special Operations Combat Medic with 3rd Ranger Battalion. I learned more about myself in those six years than I could have ever imagined. I am forever grateful for the men around me during that time!”

Mikkelson recommends that students do their research of all the branches of the military. “Anyone interested should explore all branches and make a decision best for their career path. The military becomes your second family, and one you will be forever grateful for. It was one of the best decisions of my life and has helped shape me into the person I am today!”

Wallace Moore, YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary

Wallace Moore is sixth-grade social studies teacher at Brays Oaks Secondary. From 1998 through 1996, Moore served in the United States Army.

Moore, coming from a military family, was able to experience firsthand the military lifestyle through his dad's service in the army. For students considering the military as a career, Moore shared, “The military is an excellent place to experience different cultures, receive free training in a particular skill and travel around the world. If you have discipline and are mentally strong, the military is the place for you. You will form a brotherhood that will last a lifetime.”

Timothy Nealy, YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary

Timothy Nealy is an eleventh-grade U.S. History and AP U.S. History teacher at Fifth Ward Secondary. From 2004 through 2009, Nealy served in the United States Army.

Nealy shared that, like many people his age, one of the main reasons he joined the Army was because of 9/11 attacks. “I wanted to serve my country to protect it from another attack.”

Nealy shared that the military has a wide variety of jobs for students who know that they want to go into the military but not sure in what capacity. Nealy said, “they have just about every job imaginable. Look at everything available and pick a few that seem interesting to you. Take the ASVAB, which is like the SAT for the military, before you pick a job. Many jobs in the military require a certain ASVAB score. Don't eliminate possibilities before you know what you qualify for. If you do join the military, take advantage of EVERY benefit you can. They offer aid for school, purchasing a home, medical care, debt consolidation, counseling and more!”

Samantha Ruben, YES Prep White Oak Secondary

Samantha Ruben is a social studies teacher at White Oak Secondary and is an active-duty service member.

When asked why she chose to serve her country, she said, “I chose to serve in the military to join in the cause of serving our nation.” She shared that President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, and the 9/11 attacks as her original motivations for joining the U.S. military.

The advice Ruben gives her students who are interested in joining the military is for them to do their best to steer clear of travel, do their own research on enlisting in the military vs. joining as a commissioned officer and know their personal reason for wanting to join the military. She shared, “the military is like any other career, it has its ups and down days, so when someone has a bad day, they have to hold onto their personal goals. Because you will get out of your career of what you put into it.”

Gabriela Villalobos, YES Prep Northbrook High

Gabriela Villalobos is an English ll teacher at Northbrook High. From 2008 through 2012, Villalobos served in the United States Marine Corps.

When asked what advice she has for students who are considering the military pathway, she shared, “Prepare yourself mentally for the challenges ahead. Military training is intense and will test your mental resilience. Developing a strong mindset will help you push through tough times. Learn to work well in a team and develop leadership skills. The military has a strong emphasis on teamwork and leadership and these skills will be essential throughout your career. Take advantage of the educational and training opportunities offered by the military. Focus on your physical fitness before joining.”

As we take a moment to honor and reflect on Veterans Day, let us carry forward the gratitude we feel today into the rest of the year. Our veterans have selflessly dedicated themselves to the service of our nation, embodying courage, sacrifice and resilience.

From all of us at YES Prep, thank you for your service to our country!

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