By Mark Ambrogi
Jenifer Bender is frequently moved to tears as she reviews the transformation her son Blake has made in his two years at Howe Military Academy in northeast Indiana.
“Everyone thinks it’s a boot-camp type school, but it’s a 130-plus year-old prestigious military academy,” said Bender, a Fishers resident. “It’s focused on academics, and it’s structured for kids. It’s made a phenomenal difference for him. He was struggling academically in the public schools.”
Blake, a freshman who has a rank of first sergeant, has been chosen by JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) commander to participate in the 2017 D-Day All-National/JROTC Honor Platoon. Blake, a member of Howe’s elite Raiders, will serve as ambassador and in recognized D-Day commemoration events and a seven-day tour, June 2 to 10 in Normandy, France and Paris. Blake, the class president, was selected for his outstanding academic performance and leadership qualities. Bender said Blake suffered from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and benefits from the smaller classes at Howe.
“They love these kids,” Bender said. “That makes a difference for my son who has grown up without his father for 14 years. That was hard for him. He says, ‘I have four dads up here.’ He has teachers that really want him to succeed and push him to do your best and meet your goals. As a parent, I knew he had it in him. It was just going to take the right place for him to get self-confidence he needed.”
Bender said her son is now on a college track.
“It helped me improve my leadership skills and the teachers actually care about your academics,” said Blake, who thanked his grandmother, Donna Hums, and mother for making attending Howe possible.
Jodi Clouse, Howe’s director of admissions, said the maximum class size is 16 and most classes are 10 and under. Clouse said teachers will stay after class for individual tutoring
Blake, 15, has been on the drill performance and the rifle team. He made soccer varsity team as an eighth-grader and is a two-time letter winner.
Blake is a member of the scuba team and has advanced scuba certification.
Clouse has watched Blake develop.
“He’s a huge success story here,” Clouse said.
Blake’s said his goal to college in an ROTC program and then go into the military.
“They have (extracurricular activities) that make your kids grow as an individual,” Bender said. “He went from a shy, timid kid to really being a leader to people and wanting to help his peers succeed.”
Since it costs approximately $5,000 for Normandy trip, Blake has set up a Go Fund Me page (gofundme.com/sfc-bender-honor-platoon-dday-trip).
“This is once-in-a-lifetime thing he might not get again,” Bender said.