LOOK: A young leader begins a career of service with JROTC, activism

Manual High School senior and student body president Tay Anderson leads JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)veterans day; jrotc; military; civic center park; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Manual High School senior and student body president Tay Anderson leads JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) veterans day; jrotc; military; civic center park; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Manual High School senior and student body president Tay Anderson leads JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Manual High School senior Tay Anderson had a big day on Saturday.

He started off by leading fellow Manual High School JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. That evening he was leading a rally on the state Capitol steps in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who are fighting to resist an oil pipeline’s construction through their ancestral land.

Lucille Left Hand Bull (right) holds a candle in the air during a rally in solidarity with protesors at Standing Rock, North Dakota.(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) standing rock; protest; rally; capitol hill; denverite; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Lucille Left Hand Bull (right) holds a candle in the air during a rally in solidarity with protestors at Standing Rock, North Dakota.(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

To some these two activities might seem to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But Anderson sees both as an expression of leadership and civic responsibility, and his journey to becoming this highly engaged citizen began serendipitously with JROTC.

As a freshman, Anderson was placed in JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. “I didn’t want to be in the class.”

Tay Anderson poses with a candle at a rally he organized in solidarity with protesors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) standing rock; protest; rally; capitol hill; denverite; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Tay Anderson poses with a candle at a rally he organized in solidarity with protestors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

But, he said, he fell in love with the program. And as Anderson became more involved he discovered within himself a profound motivation to be a public servant.

In JROTC, he said, “we’re standing for something bigger than ourselves. We motivate young people to become better citizens.”

Manual High School senior and student body president Tay Anderson leads JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) veterans day; jrotc; military; civic center park; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Manual High School senior and student body president Tay Anderson leads JROTC students around Civic Center Park during the annual Veterans Day parade. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

 

With this newfound sense of purpose Anderson began to work in new arenas. He became Manual High School’s student body president, became active with the leadership organization Project VOYCE and also began organizing far-reaching protests like a huge Black Lives Matter march in July.

JROTC students' shoes march down 14th Ave during the Veterans Day Parade at Civic Center Park (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) veterans day; jrotc; military; civic center park; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
JROTC students  march down 14th Ave during the Veterans Day Parade at Civic Center Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

He sees his involvement in both JROTC and social justice protests as a rounding out of his education. He says his broad civic engagement has brought on broader understanding.

Tay Anderson, student body president at Manuel High School, leads protestors across the Millennium Bridge in march against police violence through downtown Denver Thursday night. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) black lives matter 5280; protest; march; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Tay Anderson, student body president at Manuel High School, leads protestors across the Millennium Bridge in march against police violence through downtown Denver. Jul. 7, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“I see myself being able to see both perspectives,” he said, which makes him better able to act, “not just standing up because it’s the trend.”

And for Anderson, understanding the whole scope of his society is important for his long game. He said, without hesitation, that he intends to become the president of the United States.

Tay Anderson, Manual High School Student Body President stands before protestors occupying Lincoln Street in front of the State Capitol on July 7, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) black lives matter 5280; protest; march; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Tay Anderson, Manual High School Student Body President stands before protestors occupying Lincoln Street in front of the State Capitol on July 7, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

First he plans to become a teacher, and perhaps a principal too. But he’s getting started working on his first election soon. Anderson says he plans to run for Denver Public Schools’ board of education, District 4, in 2017.

JROTC students stand in formation during the Veterans Day parade at Civic Center Park. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) veterans day; jrotc; military; civic center park; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
JROTC students stand in formation during the Veterans Day parade at Civic Center Park. Nov. 12, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Indeed Anderson was one of a diverse group of young leaders directing battalions of their fellow high school students in marches around Civic Center Park.

Kevin Beaty

Author: Kevin Beaty

Kevin Beaty is a media producer with experience in a variety of settings spanning Hollywood film sets to international backpack journalism expeditions. He is on a never-ending quest to meld artful imagery, functional design and intimate storytelling. His biggest struggle in any given moment is whether to shoot stills or video.