Student stars: Ammad Allen of Oliver High School


The world of education is filled with hard workers — hard-working teachers, hard-working administrators and, of course, hard-working students. In recognition of the great students and schools in our neighborhoods, The Northside Chronicle is profiling just a few of them in this weekly blog feature.

Chronicle intern Tracy Patinksi sat down with students from many Northside schools to talk about their dreams and goals. These students work hard day in and day out to make their families and teachers proud, and each one was nominated for these profiles by their teachers and principals for their accomplishments in academics, sports, arts and more.

It’s been a busy year for Oliver High School senior Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Ammad Allen — but thanks to his experience with the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or JROTC, he has become quite skilled at time management and prioritizing.

Ammad has been a member of JROTC since ninth grade, and it’s a place where he has flourished both personally and academically. This year alone, he is active on the drill team, Raider team, honor guard and the color guard, and he holds the prestigious title of battalion commander. In this position, he is responsible for supervising all of the cadets and providing instruction and feedback as needed.

“Everything’s more structured [in JROTC],” Ammad said. “I like the people and the discipline.”

According to Michael Cassetori, senior army instructor at Oliver, only one top cadet is chosen every year to be battalion commander. Since the founding of the Oliver High School JROTC in 1979, thousands of students have come through the program — and only a few of them have obtained Ammad’s title.

“It’s a select group,” he said.

For someone so young, Ammad demonstrates impressive leadership skills, not only in JROTC but also at Boy’s State — a statewide event that allows young people to participate in mock elections and learn about legislature by forming their own cities and governments. When he attended last summer, Ammad won the Supreme Court Justice election and had a blast learning about the history of the country’s leadership.

When he’s not busy with his many JROTC responsibilities, Ammad studies subjects such as African American Literature and French. After school, you can find him at one of his many extracurricular activities, including sports (football, cross-country, swimming and track), clubs (French Club, book club and Student Council) and music (playing bass drum in the marching band, singing in the chorus and taking private voice lessons).

It’s an exhausting schedule. On a good day, Ammad wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and gets home by 9:30 p.m. Nevertheless, Ammad is excelling this year with good grades and a friendly, polite personality that seems completely unfazed by all of the responsibility he’s taken on.

Walking to Mr. Cassetori’s office, Ammad gives me a brief tour of the school, holding open the doors and pointing out the many JROTC trophies and photographs before showing me into the office.

Ammad is proud of what he has accomplished during his time at Oliver High School, and told me that he has started thinking about life after graduation.

With such unique experiences and hard work under his belt, Ammad has a multitude of options available to him after graduation. Should he decide to go the military route, he could apply for a JROTC scholarship. At the time of our interview, Ammad was mulling over heading to Duquesne or Cheyney University to study psychology or political science.

Eventually he’d like to become a lawyer. “I have that kind of confidence,” he said with a smile.

According to Michael Cassetori, JROTC teaches a variety of valuable life skills that will help Ammad, no matter which direction he chooses.

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