The story of how Kodi Hogan became involved in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Lee’s Summit High School is one of subtle prodding.
Hogan, a senior, is believed to be the first person from the school to ever be accepted into The Citadel, a military college located in Charleston, S.C. Founded in 1842, The Citadel is one of the six senior military colleges in the United States.
How Hogan ended up accepted into the prestigious institution started with a nudge from Sgt. Joel Estes of the LSHS AFJROTC program. Estes, now in his 18th year at the school, eased Hogan into the program as a freshman. Three years later, Hogan, who is currently head of logistics for proper uniforms, is immersed as one of the leaders of the program.
“My first year here I wasn’t really as involved as I’ve been the past three years,” Hogan said. “I was on drill team (as a freshmen) as part of the camera crew. My sophomore year, that’s when I started getting really involved; ever since then I really wanted to get more involved. I couldn’t have asked for anything better to be involved with in school.”
Said Estes: “I sucked her in. I put her on the camera crew for the drill team. That’s what I did. I said ‘I need a camera person to take pictures for us and do the filming.’ She just said, ‘I’m in.’ “She’s been there ever since. She jumped in.”
Col. Rick Milligan is in his first year at LSHS. Retired from the Air Force, Milligan was instrumental in bringing awareness to the Hogan family about the rare opportunity that is afforded by attending The Citadel.
“They had been sending me letters actually for about three years and I just didn’t know what to do,” Hogan said. “I didn’t know if I should fully go through with it. As soon as I came in here and showed the Colonel, he told me to go through with it and sure enough I got accepted. There are no words to explain how I feel.”
“We had been getting letters from The Citadel for years,” said Audra Hogan, Kodi’s mother. “We didn’t know what The Citadel was. Col. Milligan came in and said, ‘Whoa, you don’t want to throw those away.’”
Added Milligan: “It’s 3,000 cadets at The Citadel. They only take about less than 700 per year, so that kind of speaks for itself. The application process is what it is, but they are not going to bring somebody in there that’s not going to meet the physical demands and the academic standards. That first year is going to be difficult because you are at the bottom of the food chain fighting for scraps. Once you get through that first year, it’s smooth sailing.”
The lessons learned at LSHS as part of the school’s AFJROTC program should help Hogan as she adjusts to life after high school, she said. The tuition to attend The Citadel is $45,000 the first year and $40,000 each year after that. Undaunted by the amount, Hogan and her family are looking at every possible angle to secure scholarship awards.
“It gives you the backing that you need and the potential financial help with the scholarships they are trying to provide for me,” Hogan said of the school’s JROTC program. “The leadership capabilities that they have been giving me – all of that – has been tremendous.”
“If The Citadel doesn’t work out, she’s going to the Air Force,” Audra Hogan said. “She told me that (recently) and I was like, ‘OK.’”
Hogan also leads the color guard and exhibition team at LSHS. Hogan’s leadership qualities developed over time, but have been obvious to Milligan from the start.
“This is my first year here,” he said, “and Kodi is visible across the corp. Whether it’s drill or a leadership position she has here on the staff, she’s probably one of the most visible cadets we have.”
Added Estes: “She’s had the competition color guard for this year and this year is the first year the competition color guard has actually placed. Usually we don’t place. This is the first year they’ve actually placed in a couple of drill meets and she’s pushed those guys to another level.”