Eighty-five percent of the members of the Drill Team live in inner-city neighborhoods where they are confronted by violence, gangs, and drugs. Many members walk past drug corners or cross gang lines to and from school and team rehearsals. Many know firsthand the challenges of living in poverty, and nearly all members know victims of violence or have been a victim themselves. Some have friends or relatives who have been shot and killed.
In the midst of all this, the South Shore Drill Team provides a safe haven, a second family, and a foundation for personal growth. Here is what a few active members and alumni have to say about how their experience on the team changed their lives.
“I would like to give thanks to South Shore Drill Team for making me a better and more self-disciplined person. The Drill Team helped me with my trust and respect problems. This is a strong organization and they surround us with positive people. I’ve traveled, built relationships with fellow team members, and had the experience of a lifetime.”
Rodney Jerome Nelson, Jr., 19
“As a kid on the drill team, I didn’t know what it really meant to be part of a team. As time went on, I began to see that the process of the Drill Team was to make young kids into strong, independent black women and men. Being a part of the Drill Team has made me the person I am today.”
Ashley Wheatley, 18
“Before I joined the Drill Team, I was a low-life – a person who didn’t think about the future. I wanted to be cool so I hung around with a negative crowd and did things that were bad for me. Once I joined the Drill Team, I was able to show my hard work and dedication, not only at rehearsals, but in school as well. I developed a trait that changed me – leadership – and that created a new view of things for me. The Drill Team encouraged me to strive for greatness, and the outcome was my graduating high school and going to college. I love South Shore Drill Team and thank them for my success.”
Khalif Toler, 18
“I’m successful now, but then I didn’t have any hope, I was a drop out, I was hopeless, I didn’t have a job, I was gang-affiliated, I was stealing cars, I was basically trash. And then, out of nowhere, God sent this sign, this star to guide me through life, and the star that I’m talking about is the South Shore Drill Team.
Every kid that you see here has their own different success story. Most of the instructors came up through the Drill Team, and they have their own story. It’s just whether you have the time to listen…”
Coran Smith, Administration Manager, CTA
South Shore Drill Team Board Member and Alumnus
“Growing up in affected neighborhoods where there are gangs, sex, money, and drugs that stir young people the wrong way cause many to get caught up in the field of negativity. At the age of 8, I was in that negative field until someone from South Shore Drill Team told me to come by practice after school one day. I saw kids being engaged in such a way that I wanted to be a part of it, so I joined and have been in the positive field ever since.
Through my years of being involved, I’ve had to overcome major obstacles such as traveling through different areas on the way to practice and being chased by guys because I wasn’t from their neighborhood or having people in my own neighborhood try to get me involved in gangs, sex, or drugs. It was a struggle because I saw friends who had some of the finer things in life, but years later those friends are either dead or behind bars. Thank God for the choice I’ve made.
Through hard work and dedication, I became Team Captain by age 16 and was in charge of members who were 18-21 years old. Wow, what a task! I dedicated myself to gaining and keeping their respect.
In 2004, I graduated from Chicago State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and I’ve been serving as the team’s assistant director since then. Today I use my management skills to oversee performances and supervise the team’s Employment Training Program. I’ve been through the struggles of every child living in an environment filled with crime, and the South Shore Drill Team helped me be strong enough to pull through and lead others to becoming productive people.”
Michael A. Borum, Assistant Director
South Shore Drill Team