Looks Bright: Young Marines ready to take on leadership roles

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 1, 2014

LAPLACE — Brian Bertrand knows he has a few leaders developing when it comes to Young Marines Sgts. Kenyatte Cannon, Da’Shawn August and Kenjatte Cannon.

“The honor from my seat of being able to see these kids when they first came in and to have watched them grow, watched them develop, watched them become better people has been a true treasure in my life,” said Bertrand, unit commander for St. John Parish Young Marines.

August, along with twin siblings Kenyatte and Kenjatte, recently returned from a week of intense Senior Leadership School at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va.

All three will be juniors at East St. John High School this school year, and each described the training as ground-breaking on a personal level.

“It was a learning experience, but you still made a lot of bonds with people,” Kenyatte, 15, said. “You learned how to run the unit, be a better leader to the unit, but you also made friends. As the week went on, one of my goals was to become a better leader.”

August, 16, said being a good leader means knowing never to take personal power for granted by overpowering others.

“Not only did I meet other Young Marines from around the world, but I also made bonds with them and can literally trust them with my life,” he said. “It showed me I could do more things than I thought I could. I can push myself more, and I know how to push other people.”

August was especially proud of scoring a 485 out of 500 on this fitness test, which consisted of physical challenges involving reach, pull-ups, timed runs and more.

Kenjatte joked they marched everywhere they went over the course of the week in early July, adding they were consistently faced with new challenges.

“You have to adapt and overcome,” he said. “If you are not used to it, you will learn it eventually.

“Young Marines helped me get out of my shell and take the leadership position. I think that will help in the future with a long-term career.”

Young Marines, the official youth program of the U.S. Marine Corps, is not designed as a recruiting tool, but focuses on character building, leadership and promotes a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Bertrand said he would be happy to see his Young Marines pursue a future in the military, but he gears efforts toward teaching skills for life through leadership, discipline or teamwork.

Life skills training includes that of CPR, swimming, field skills, pitching a tent, fire building and cooking food over those fires.

“We’re putting the advertisement out to the community to kids that want something out of their life other than sports or academics,” Bertrand said.

“This is that alternative program to be part of to give something back to the community.”

Kenjatte has an interest in pharmacy, and August said he would like to be a chef. Neither of the three are yet making plans for their life beyond high school, but Kenyatte, Kenjatte and August each pledge to come back and work as an instructor with Young Marines.

“I am definitely coming back to be an instructor, so I can help others, teach others and be a role model for kids,” August said.

Send your suggestion about which youth or youth-related program should be featured in Saturday’s “LOOKS BRIGHT” story by emailing stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.