Cool Kid Kelly Cotledge leads Junior ROTC program while helping fellow classmates

BUENA PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- Just mentioning Kelly Cotledge's name on the campus of Buena Park High School draws smiles to the faculty members' faces.

"Every day she's got a smile on her face. She's cheerful, witty," said Officer Oscar Perez with the Buena Park Police Department.

Sonje Berg, the principal of Buena Park High School, describes Kelly as "one of those students that you wish you had 2,000 of."

That's because this 16-year-old honors student is committed to her community and volunteers for so many programs.

"I get to learn lots of leadership skills, connect with people, which I'll have to do in the future, and so learning these things now at my age is a good thing to have," Kelly said.

First, there's the Junior ROTC, where Kelly is on the Stellar Explorers Team. She also leads cadets through precise drill sequences, exceeding standards.

"And that's the highest rating possible," said James M. Miller, a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force and the JROTC program administrator. "That was due to Kelly's leadership and her ability to take charge of a formation and lead it."

Kelly wants to join the U.S. Air Force and later become a veterinarian. That's why she is also an officer with the Future Farmers of America.

"Some students go above and beyond in their efforts, and I would definitely label Kelly as one of those students," said Jessica Fernandes, the Agriculture Department chairman at Buena Park High School. "She's also taking on a managerial duty in our farming operation in our Greens Project."

Kelly has raised a lamb and helps harvest fruits and vegetables at school. In her free time, school resource officers also appreciate that Kelly is bridging friendships with socially shy classmates.

"She took it upon herself to help teachers and staff help introduce kids with one another," said Officer Daniel Solis, Buena Park High School's campus resource officer. "That way, they would feel comfortable before going into a classroom full of strangers."

"It has really gave me great hope, admiration and as well as for me to look up to her, not as a daughter, but as a person as well as a best friend," said Kelly's mother, Tanya Bennett.

This ABC7 Cool Kid's first mission after high school is to become a U.S. Air Force pilot.

"Thinking about serving my country, putting my country before myself, it's like really important to me," Kelly said.
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