Five days after graduating from high school in 1977, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Kenneth Abrams enlisted in the Army.
Abrams served in the Infantry for 21 years, serving as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson, S.C. to doing a Tour of the Old Guard in Washington, D.C.
After serving in the Army in Texas, Germany, South Carolina and the 25th Infantry in Hawaii, Abrams was deciding what to do after retirement.
“As a drill sergeant, all do you do is teach and yell, and I had fallen in love with teaching,” Abrams said. “I was undecided what I wanted to do when I left the service and someone suggested teaching JROTC.”
Abrams became certified as an ROTC instructor and applied at Elkin High School and was hired in June 1997, leaving Hawaii to come live in Elkin.
“The difference between teaching soldiers and high school students is that they are teenagers. Soldiers know better and come in with certain values and honor,” Abrams said. “With teenagers you have to be very flexible, have a sense of humor and understand that they are going to make mistakes.”
JROTC is a course run by the students, but supervised by Abrams and Lt. Col. William McGrew.
“It’s all about leadership,” he said. “We do drills and teach about military history, but then do things like show how to balance checkbooks and work on public speaking.”
Students can take the course for one year or all four. Freshman students come in eager to learn, and with each year are given more responsibilities.
Third and fourth year ROTC students run the program under Abrams and McGrew’s supervision, Abrams said.
“The reward I get from teaching them is watching them succeed,” he said. “The public speaking portion helps build their confidence and by their last year, they are teaching a full class.”
But ROTC just doesn’t teach skills, it also teaches students integrity.
“I think all schools should have ROTC programs, because of the leadership it teaches,” Abrams said. “Students do community service outside of school, teaching them to give back to their community.”
Outside of teaching ROTC, Abrams coaches Elkin High School’s basketball team, cross country team and loves to fish.
“I love to fish, that’s what I do in my downtime,” he said. “There’s something relaxing about being in my boat, even if I don’t catch anything.”
Leaving the travel of military life to come to Elkin, wasn’t difficult for Abrams after growing up on a farm in Kingstree, S.C.
“Coming here was a blessing in disguise. There is so much community support, less traffic and you get to be outdoors,” he said. “The city is okay, but you get a lot of headaches. Elkin is a unique place to be, where if you call up someone and say you need help, you’ll get it. It’s a good community with a great school system.”
Name: Kenneth Abrams
Employer: JROTC instructor at Elkin High School
How long worked: 15 years
Favorite Food: Crab legs
Favorite Pastime: Fishing
Favorite Sports Team: Univeristy of South Carolina and Maryland Terrapins
Family: three daughters, son and wife Frieda
Born: Kingstree, S.C.
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 17 or email@example.com.