Stephanie Escobar was a student at Marsh Middle School when the school’s Military Museum was founded by Cpl. David Bates, now an assistant superintendent in Dallas ISD. Fast forward and Escobar is now a Leadership Cadet Corps instructor at the renamed Marsh Preparatory Academy, leading the cadet program and the museum, which recently marked its tenth anniversary.
“The military museum is an extension of our classroom,” Escobar said. “Our students consider it a second home, a place to learn about military background and terminology.” Although the museum was not open as frequently as its leaders would have liked this school year due to Covid, it was open for a Veterans Day event where the community was able to visit.
“The museum really does bring everyone together through the Leadership Cadet Corp (LCC) program. The program is a legacy,” Escobar said. Her older brother, William Benitez, was a part of the program, as were relatives of some of her students and co-workers at Marsh. “The military museum serves as a staple for the community. It brings people together from all different realms. And our students take pride in knowing that we have such a great thing going on at Marsh. We also have students who serve as curators, making sure the museum is up to par.”
Housed at the museum are uniforms, photographs, medals and memorabilia representing the military experiences of veterans in the Dallas community. “The museum is 100% community-funded. Our own Corporal [Miriam] Gaytan, the former LCC instructor at Marsh, donated her uniform to the museum, and so did others from Dallas ISD. It is a compilation of a multitude of relics and memories donated by community members.”
As a seventh-grade student at Marsh, Escobar joined the cadet program, whose mission is to help students improve their academic, social, communication, and leadership skills. Inspired by some of the things Cpl. Bates taught the cadets about becoming leaders and the importance of having discipline and integrity, she became a leader and led the cadets in their national competition, where they won second place. In the eighth grade, she was inducted as the first female commanding officer for the program since its founding in 1999. The cadets won the national championship that year, reclaiming a title they had held years before.
“We came back from the national competition in Kansas wanting to do something even bigger,” Escobar said, “and that’s when we began the military museum. We were able to do it because the community contributed not only their items but also their funds. In one year we were able to raise about $99,000, enough to ensure that the museum was up and running. It all started with an idea that became a reality.”
Escobar went on to graduate from W.T. White High School and the University of Texas at Arlington, where she received a degree in public health. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program at UT Arlington, studying social work with an emphasis on mental health and substance use, while teaching at Marsh.
“Being a Leadership Cadet Corp instructor is amazing because I always wanted to give back to my community, and this is the best way I can do that. It only takes one person to believe in a student and make a difference in their life. Cpl. Bates and Cpl. Gaytan had that belief in me, and it is my hope that I can continue that legacy.”
The corps has 162 students enrolled in its program post-COVID, Escobar said, “Next year we plan to have 200+ students enrolled. The plan is to continue to build and do bigger things.”