Blue Angels

Blue Angels visit Bates Boys & Girls Club in Annapolis
Team member: 'Don't set limits upon yourself'
Brandi Bottalico bbottalico@capgaznews.com May 18, 2015

Rashad Carroll,10, said he's watched Blue Angels shows since he was little and after meeting members of the team Monday realized he could help them in his planned career as a scientist. "I could really help out a lot and make different planes," the Germantown Elementary fourth-grader said. Lt. 

Greg Bollinger, a Blue Angels supply officer, and Jennifer Lebron, a Blue Angels spokeswoman, spoke to about 70 children at the Bates Boys & Girls Club in Annapolis before the team's practice today and performance tomorrow.

Bollinger said these types of visits are important to make an impression on children who may have never seen a service member in person. "We remind (the kids) they should pursue excellence," he said. Lebron said it's also a great opportunity to show children what the Navy and Marine Corps do — and that they can do it also. "We want to inspire patriotism and the desire to want to serve," she said. She told the group this year was special to the team because of the first woman to fly with the Blue Angels. Capt. Katie Higgins, who is from Severna Park, will be in the cockpit of the C-130 Hercules nicknamed "Fat Albert."

About half of the children in the room raised their hands when asked if they wanted to join the military. Jeffrey Serrano, 8, was part of what Bollinger called the "questions crew" that dominated the question and answer portion. Jeffrey said last year at Tyler Heights Elementary School he and his class sat outside and watched the Blue Angels. "They were making tricks and pictures with the smoke." The favorite fact he took away from Monday was that the "Boss," the Blue Angels commanding officer, determines if the team members have their shades down or not by putting his on. Jeffrey would like to be a chef one day, but said he'd possibly fly jets as a hobby. 

"You can be what you want to be, do what you want to do," Bollinger said. "Don't set limits upon yourself."  When he was 18, he opted out of college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. "I thought I knew everything." But Bollinger said that while serving he decided to get his bachelor's degree in history. Then, he went to school to become an officer. "The lessons you're being taught … they're giving you the tools to further you in life," he said. "Set goals for yourself, decide what you're going to do and have a plan for how you will achieve that." 

 Steven Cornette, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County, said Monday's event came about after the director of programs at the organization ran into someone who said they could help get Blue Angels members to visit. 

 Lebron said the crowd of about 130 people, which included parents and volunteers, were comparable to the Blue Angels entire team and being there for each other was important — for both groups. "You can help each other move forward in your future," she said. "Embrace your team." 
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