In together, out together: Four MHS graduates matriculate from military colleges at the same time
by Haisten Willis
June 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 3318 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — In the spring of 2010, Marietta High School boasted four graduates headed for military academies, an extraordinary number, according to the school’s principal.

“One appointment is fantastic, but four from one high school in one year is remarkable,” said MHS Principal Leigh Colburn.

Last month, the four graduated again, all at the same time, from their military schools. Three, Jalen Fooster-Barrino, Nicholas “Cole” Donnelly and Teresa Elsbree, matriculated from the United States Air Force Academy. The other, Erik Houston, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Each said they grew tremendously during their time at the academies.

“I always wanted to go to one of the service academies,” said Houston. “West Point was the place to be.”

They said it was a tough experience and the schools pushed them to their limit. But at the same time, each said the MHS International Baccalaureate program was great preparation for college.

“I was very well-prepared through the IB program,” Elsbree said.

Future plans

The four all are heading to separate places as they begin military service. Houston is going to Fort Rucker in Alabama. He said he learned resiliency at the Army academy: His instructors knocked him down and taught him to pick himself back up and keep moving. They took him to his limits to see how he’d respond, Houston said.

The experience taught the cadets how to work together.

“You build bonds that last forever,” said Houston. “You find people to grab onto. That teamwork is huge.”

Houston, who played linebacker on the Marietta football team, along with Fooster-Barrino, will attend two years of flight school at Fort Rucker. After that, he said he’s keeping his options open.

“They told us, ‘If you’re having fun, stay in. If not, get out,’” Houston said.

Fooster-Barrino is going to Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, Miss.

He said the Air Force Academy gave him a sense of purpose. He felt he was part of something bigger than himself. It reminded Fooster-Barrino a little of the days on his high school football and track teams. Like the others, Fooster-Barrino said the IB program at Marietta was great preparation for his college studies, and the sports teams prepared his body athletically.

That doesn’t mean it was a breeze.

“The Academy is a balancing act,” Fooster-Barrino said about the challenge of sharing academics and extracurricular activities.

Fooster-Barrino’s mother, Teisha Fooster teaches youth apprenticeship at Marietta High.

He sees two possible career paths right now. Fooster-Barrino loves flying and has thoughts of becoming a helicopter or commercial airline pilot. On the other hand, his love of athletics makes a career as a track and field or football coach attractive.

Another of the graduates, Donnelly, has a father who is a commercial pilot and former naval aviator. He also thinks that could be a career for him.

Donelly is heading to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. First, he’ll stop by Pueblo, Colo., for his initial flight screening.

“I had a blast at the Air Force Academy,” said Donnelly. “I’d repeat every single minute there.”

Donnelly cited the outstanding instruction as a strength of the academy experience. He was put through tough tests, spending eight days in the woods with almost no food during one of them. Donnelly said those tests gave him a high sense of self confidence.

“I got a million-dollar education out of it,” he said.

Along with flying, he has an interest in satellites and mapmaking that he could see becoming a career.

Elsbree’s grandfather, Michael Miller, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1956. His stories about the experience were a big reason she decided to attend an academy herself.

Elsbree, too, learned tough lessons during the Air Force experience.

“I learned what you can do when you are determined to get through something,” Elsbree said.

Her next stop is Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Elsbree will be managing contracts between the Air Force and civilians at the base. She said the contracts she’ll deal with are roughly similar to the relationship between Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.

Beyond that, Elsbree hasn’t carved out a career choice yet. She wants to see where the Air Force takes her first.

“It’s really an open door to anything,” Elsbree said.


Teresa Elsbree
Family: Parents, Ruth and James Elsbree. Siblings, Kayleen, Michael, Stephen and Connor.
Age: 22
Church: Transfiguration Catholic Church
School: United States Air Force Academy

Nicholas “Cole” Donnelly
Family: Parents, Mark and Tess Donnelly. Sister, Brooke Donnelly
Age: 22
Church: Sanctuary Church
School: United States Air Force Academy

Jalen Fooster-Barrino
Family: Parents, Teisha Fooster and Julius Barrino
Age: 21
Church: Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church
School: United States Air Force Academy

Erik Houston
Family: Parents, Chuck and Dawn Houston. Siblings, Charlie, Miranda and Valerie
Age: 22
Church: First Presbyterian Church, Marietta
School: United States Military Academy at West Point

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