The 99th Squadron @ Alliance High School grew from an idea of Matthew Horning at Alliance Middle School to encourage the academic success of minority male students through social and academic support. The endeavor was inspired by the 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen who never lost a pilot they were assigned to escort during World War II.
Now in its third year at the high school, the program - led by Lester Sanders - involves 13 juniors and seniors and 13 sophomores. "The squadron empowers students to make decisions and to be accountable," Sanders explained. "These young men are accountable to their peers, the staff, their mentors and to themselves." Sanders and Alliance leadership see a ripple effect of the positive examples set by the members.
The continuing participation of 87% of last year's juniors indicates students feel safe and a sense of accomplishment in reaching their goals. "We are seeing applicants make changes in their lives in order to be in the 99th Squadron," Shawn Jackson, Principal, said. "They are raising their grades and/or changing their behavior." In addition, Jackson reported that when the community needs student representatives they will often request the 99th Squadron.
Squadron members are engaged in school and after school activities. Jackson believes the young men are valued role models for middle school students and works to find opportunities for interaction without interrupting academic activities.