A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Santana said he became a teacher in 1999, teaching at-risk students in a Florida school. While in Florida, Santana started a Junior ROTC preparation program for middle school students who were thinking about joining JROTC in high school.
“The program teaches discipline, teamwork and leadership,” Santana said.
Santana moved to Canton in 2005 and began teaching at Teasley Middle School, and for the past nine years, he has been helping students prepare for their futures by commanding the JROTC preparation program.
“Cadets come out of that program and go into the high school ROTC program… and they start out at a higher rank as soon as they walk in the door for ninth-grade,” he said.
Working as an in-school suspension teacher at Teasley, Santana said he has been conducting the JROTC preparation program after school for students who are interested.
Santana said some of the students he’s taught in ISS have gone on to join his JROTC program.
“That’s my primary job,” he said, adding that many students find success through the JROTC preparation program.
Cadets from the middle and high school ROTC programs can also take advantage of the Sky Patriots Summer Leadership Camp that Santana started.
The students who participate in the Sky Patriots camp get to spend eight days on a military base “doing what Army soldiers do during basic training,” for an overnight summer camp, Santana said.
“This year, we went to Fort Benning, and I had about 50 cadets,” Santana said, adding that this year’s summer camp was “the best ever.”
The students at summer camp get to do all sorts of things at the military base, Santana said, including physical training, obstacle courses, rappelling off of the top of a 42-foot wall, leadership reaction courses and firing simulators.
Santana said many of his former students and summer camp participants have gone on to prominent positions in the military and other successes, and he said it makes him proud.