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First day of classes at the Arkansas Military & First Responders Academy



Little Rock, Arkansas – In comparison to other schools in the state, a new one has opened in central Arkansas.

The new Arkansas Military and First Responders Academy in Little Rock began sessions in earnest on Wednesday.

The commandant of the academy is Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jason Smedley. He expressed his enthusiasm for the first day.

“This is important because it’s the first in Arkansas and it gives Arkansans, especially central Arkansas, an opportunity for a new way to have education,” Smedley said.

Smedley claims he has been anticipating the start of the Academy for almost a year. He also notes that state funding and private donations allowed for its establishment.

He claimed that in addition to having a STEM curriculum for cadets that will include pre-engineering, coding, and cybersecurity, they also offer a college preparatory program to help students be ready for life after high school.

According to the lieutenant colonel, the academy currently has 80 cadets who are in grades 9 and 10. However, just because they are cadets with the academy does not guarantee that they will enlist in the military.

“They don’t have to join the military, they don’t have to be a first responder and they don’t have to go to college, but we want to make sure when they walk across that stage with their diploma, they have a realistic plan for the way ahead after high school,” Smedley said. “We believe in three things: keep them safe, challenged and life prepared for life after high school.”

The 15-year-old daughter of parent Tracy Gay is a cadet at the academy, and Tracy Gay expressed excitement for what it means for her family.

“I could just break down and cry. My heart is beating out of my chest,” Gay said “I’m so excited for my family. We need this.”

She continued by saying that her daughter wore the academy uniform in memory of her father.

“He was a police officer for 30 years and he passed away in January, so she says she is honoring her dad to do this.” Gay explained. “She said her outfit smelt like her dad this morning when she put it on, and you don’t even know how they made us feel.”

According to Smedley, all cadets receive free tuition, which covers the cost of their uniforms as well.

Eduardo Delgado, a 14-year-old cadet, claims that his future plans will benefit from attending the academy.

“I’m very big on the military,” Delgado said. “I plan on joining the Marine Corps.”

Junior Cayden Baxter, 16, said that going to class also helps him with his future intentions to join the military and pursue any legal endeavors. Young people his age were advised by Baxter to keep an open mind about the institution.

“ROTC may seem scary like a spooky camp or something like that but it’s not,” Baxter said. “It’s having fun and learning military leadership.”

Gay claimed that everyone attending the academy might have new chances.

“It’s not just about going to school and getting an education, it’s about their future,” Gay said. “They need a plan, they need a goal.”

Smedley stated that they ought to have a full school—i.e., cadets in grades 9 through 12—after two to three years.


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