(April 12, 2019) A UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter landed on the ball field at Snow Hill High School last Friday, with Assistant Adjutant Gen. Janeen Birckhead, along with eight other members of the Maryland Army National Guard.
She visited the school to speak with students about leadership and positive decision making.
Birckhead, a Worcester County native, attended Snow Hill elementary and middle schools and graduated from the high school in 1987.
“[I’m] proud to be from the Eastern Shore and [am] always looking to let people know all the good things that come from the Eastern Shore,” she said.
Birckhead participated in an ROTC program at Hampton University. Her first assignment was chemical detachment in the U.S. Army Reserves. She was called up to the Maryland Army National Guard in 1994.
About 300 students participated in discussions and toured the UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Birckhead’s mission is to help chart a course for students to set them up for success. She presented them with a leadership acronym representing several core values including duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
“The Army is a very competitive, incredibly elite group of people,” Birckhead said. “We’re only the 1 percent, a female general, I’m like the 1 percent of the 1 percent.”
Birckhead emphasized it all starts with making good decisions that have a lasting impact.
She also told students that laying the foundation with education is an essential part of that path.
“Education is important. I don’t care if you don’t go to college, but if you’re going to do something else, it takes some education,” she said.
She encouraged the high school students to present the best versions of themselves. She expressed her displeasure with conduct on social media and urged the students to be respectful on various platforms.
“It hurts my heart young people,” she said. “You are limiting your options because of what you do on social media.”
Birckhead stressed the importance of being proactive and to seek out mentorship opportunities as a way to cultivate possible career paths.
“Opportunity has a … window, and once that closes, that opportunity is gone,” she said. “Other opportunities may present themselves, but that opportunity is gone.”
In addition she said paying it forward is crucial.
“That’s another reason why I think it’s so good to come back to where you’re from when you can have an impact because if I can’t help you get [an opportunity], maybe I know someone who can help you get it,” Birckhead said. “And I’m all about that.”
Principal Kimberly Purvis said the students and staff were excited for the visit.
“Because she is a local person, I think the community was extremely excited to have her return and serve as an inspiration to our students, especially our young ladies,” she said.
Birckhead’s children also attend Snow Hill High School and Purvis said she’s an active parent who often attends meetings and provides helpful information on various scholarships.
“She’s a great resource to the school,” Purvis said.
Snow Hill High School has had a JROTC program since 1996. While Birckhead stressed last Friday’s visit to her alma mater wasn’t a recruiting event for the Maryland Army National Guard, she said she hopes to continue her team’s efforts statewide.
“We’ll be reaching out to the other boards of education and hopefully we’ll get their support and say, ‘yeah please come to our school and lets have a dialogue about these topics,’” she said. “So we’re looking forward to having further outreach once they see this is a success.”
Purvis and Birckhead agree last week’s event allowed for a continued positive relationship between the town and educational institution.
“Snow Hill High School is not just a school, but it’s a community school, and it was a great opportunity for the school and the community to connect,” Purvis said.