Innovative CAP Leader Speaks

Innovative CAP Leader Speaks

26 Aug 2015

The spring/summer speaker series for the Sugar Valley Composite Squadron concluded with an inspiring presentation by Lt Col Shelley Gonzales, commander of the NC Leadership Academy Cadet Squadron.  The leadership, service and enthusiasm she brings to all her CAP responsibilities inspired her topic, “The Heart of the Volunteer.” “CAP was birthed from the heart of volunteerism at a different time, 75 years ago,” Gonzales noted. “It is as valuable to our civilian culture as anything is. 60,000 people nationally volunteer for CAP.”

She asked the group if anyone had heard the statement “just a volunteer” and then posed the question for pilots, “do you preflight a plane differently if you are a professional, or a volunteer?” Lt Col Gonzales gave a poignant example of how we need to give whatever we do 100% of our effort.

Lt Col Shelley Gonzales speaks to NC-052 cadets and senior members.

Lt Col Shelley Gonzales speaks to NC-052 cadets and senior members.

Several years ago, Gonzales was working with cadets and had a particularly challenging cadet, Lucas Elliott, who “was a difficult young man who wanted to shoot guns.” She worked with him as best she could, but after about a year in CAP, he chose to leave the squadron. Several years later, Gonzales was at an event when she was tapped on the shoulder by a tall young man in an army uniform whom she did not recognize. He identified himself as Lucas Elliott, and asked if she remembered him. He asked, “are you proud of me?” She responded, “yes, I am.” Six weeks later, she learned that he had been killed in action. Gonzales told his mother that whenever she had an opportunity to speak in public, she would tell his story so that he was never forgotten. “You have to give it your all, because you never know,” Gonzales said. CAP is an opportunity to change lives and make a difference, and we do this as volunteers.

How did she get started in CAP? After watching live events unfolding during 9/11, her 13 year old daughter turned to her and said, “I want to make a difference. I want to be a part of the solution.” Shelley researched volunteer opportunities and discovered the CAP web site. She and her daughter joined together, and Gonzales has been volunteering for CAP in a variety of positions since then.

As a faculty member and teacher at the NC Leadership Academy, Gonzales shared some of her experiences with the students there. The goal of this charter school is for students “to have the opportunity to develop true leadership qualities and become creative thinkers and problem solvers while retaining a sense of responsibility for their families, their community, and their country.”

Two days before her talk, Gonzales had just returned from 9 days at the NC Wing Encampment. 35 cadets from the NC Leadership Academy squadron participated in encampment. “I told their parents, ‘I am not bringing back what I took. The experience of encampment is going to change them.'”  

“Cadets, look to the seniors for core values. Seniors, look to the cadets and imagine their dreams.” This was her challenge for us.

The Sugar Valley Composite Squadron hosts speakers monthly on topics of service and leadership. Please plan to attend these open community events; directions and contact information are available on the squadron website.

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