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Ten Years of Memories

Part Two: Major Joshua Curtis CAPTAIN UMA-RICA: The First Indenture
Ten Years of Memories

Written by Major Joshua Curtis

Fate has an odd way of directing, managing, or even just adjusting our life path, and though
I’ll never be one of those, “everything happens for a reason,” type of people (because, let’s face
it, sometimes the “reason” is that we are humans, and humans make dumb decisions) I also
feel like I was meant to be part of UMA and so many pieces fell into place to bring and keep me
here (and I don’t just mean the ankle bracelet they make me wear now).

In February of 2014 I was teaching at a school in Kaysville called Jefferson Academy, which
was a Kindergarten through 9th grade school at the time. Coincidentally Mrs. Horning’s son, a
UMA alumni, 2nd Lieutenant Enoch Horning, was one of my 8th graders there.

One fateful Friday that February, the entire staff, student body, and parents all received an email that they’d be
closing the Junior High the following year, and become only an Elementary School (which it still
is currently). While that announcement created a lot of emotion, and drama, our Principal
vowed to help the Junior High teachers find new jobs, however she could. I spent the weekend
“mourning,” and then on Monday morning went online to look at other schools, unique
opportunities, and, honestly, intended to just say goodbye to Utah as a whole. In the course of
searching “military,” and “charter schools,”

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I found an article that one Major Kit Workman and Matt Throckmorton would be presenting their proposal to the State Charter Board for a Military Academy here in Utah, and they were presenting it that Tuesday. I approached my
Principal and asked if I could have half a day off to go up to the Capitol and check out this plan, proposal, and team. I listened to their pitch, and then had lunch with Matt Throckmorton. Over lunch we discussed my military service (I was Lieutenant Curtis at the time) and he offered me a job before we’d had dessert. Thus, in a way, I can say I was the first teacher hired (though the contract would come later). I’m not sure my former colleagues appreciated that it took me only four days to land a new job.

That first summer was wild, getting to be part of meetings to help choose a mascot, the
school colors, and other key things that would become integral to UMA culture. We even tried
having a “teacher boot camp” at Camp Williams, and it was quite entertaining seeing some of
them march.

I remember meeting a 16 year old ginger kid who was ALWAYS trying to help, by
the name of Zach Sharkey (and he’d later be one of my first Cadets). I also remember thinking,
“How is this ever going to work?!” as we were sharing the building with another school, didn’t
have control of most of the upstairs, and were blocked off from the far halls where the science
labs currently are.

We also had a small enough faculty that we could fit in one tiny classroom to
meet. There was this recently separated Airmen, hired as a Para, named David Storm who we
could tell would actually be an amazing teacher. There was this woman, Shannon Seward, who
was basically the gopher for any tasks needed, and jobs needing filled. And there was this
intimidating Chief named Martin who reminded me to keep my own uniform, appearance, and behavior above reproach. There was Major “Grandpa” Workman who’s vision, much like an Old
Testament Prophet, led to the school’s creation, and, of course, there was Paul Kapp who was
still not checking his emails, but was protective of his parking spot, instruments, and room.

And now I look back ten years later and see how our student body has nearly doubled, our
faculty as well, and we’ve gone through countless remodels, administrators, staff, and students,
and even have many former Cadets working here. And, even as ideas are often proposed that
make me question whether or not I want to stay here, or as I get frustrated with certain
behaviors, vandalism, or long-winded adults speaking into the microphone during formation, I
am reminded why I first came to UMA and believed in it – we have a unique culture, with
strong values, a visible discipline and routine, and I believe the vast majority of Staff and Cadets
strive to follow and live our core values – Integrity, Service, and Excellence.

The UMA motto is “Et Stans Supra Firmam,” which means, roughly, to “Stand Tall, and Rise Above.” I believe in so
many ways we do rise, even when other factors encourage us to fall. We have suffered through
COVID, through tragic deaths, through changes in Administration, rules, and schedules, and
even through Mr. Vawter’s famous gas incident… and yet, much like the song we sing each
Friday, though it’s the verse we never sing, we have “souls of men dreaming of skies to
conquer. Give us wings, ever to soar!” We continue to rise, to be and do better, and to follow
the path that fate has for us. Hooah Thunderbirds.

Major Curtis teaching at the front of his class, 10 years after joining.

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