Cadet candidates lead Prep School's 'It's On Us' pledge

Cadet Candidate Monica Mammah conducts a portion of the Air Force Academy Preparatory School's "It's On Us" campaign in the Community Center Theater here Tuesday. Mammah is one of 13 cadet candidates who took a pledge alongside the Prep School's senior leaders to recognize sexual assault and create an environment where it is not tolerated. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Cadet Candidate Monica Mammah conducts a portion of the Air Force Academy Preparatory School's "It's On Us" campaign in the Community Center Theater here Tuesday. Mammah is one of 13 cadet candidates who took a pledge alongside the Prep School's senior leaders to recognize sexual assault and create an environment where it is not tolerated. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A group of 13 Academy Preparatory School students and senior leaders took the "It's On Us" pledge during a presentation in the Community Center Theater here Feb. 3.

The pledge commits the Prep School's student and faculty leaders to create an environment that does not tolerate sexual assault and that supports survivors.

Cadet Candidate Kylee Miller said she volunteered out of a spirit of wingmanship.

"I want everyone to know and to realize that we are a family, we support each other, and we are there for each other no matter what," Miller said. "This means listening and talking about difficult things, being a good wingman if we are needed and getting someone help if they need it."

Cadet Candidate Gerald Coleman said he knows survivors of sexual assault and has heard about it happening at several college campuses.

"Therefore, when I first heard about the 'It's On Us' campaign, I immediately wanted to volunteer so that I could help make a difference and make sure I was doing everything in my power to stop it," Coleman said.

"Sexual assault is a bigger deal than what people make it out to be, and there is so much each of us can do to help prevent it," Cadet Candidate Tania Rivera said. "It is very important that we create an environment where sexual assault is seen as 100-percent unacceptable."

Creating that environment means educating people on what constitutes sexual assault and what they can do to intervene in a situation that might lead to sexual assault, Rivera said.

"It isn't something that's talked about often," she said. However, "If everyone does their part in recognizing sexual assault, the situations in which it may occur and how to intervene, I believe we can lower the statistics."

"This topic seems to be a taboo to some people, but that is the way these things happen: by not knowing, not talking and not being there when someone needs help," Miller said.

Prep School Commander Col. Gerald Szybist thanked the cadet candidates for putting the school's "It's On Us" campaign together.

"I'm touched. I'm proud of you," Szybist said. "I'm moved by what you've done today. It's so cool to see how you've come together to take this on."

Other cadet candidates who took the pledge were Tabitha Clement, Nicholas George, Domonique Gordon, Cindy Kim, Monica Mammah, Brianna Martinez, Abigail Miksch, Brianna Murray, Quin'Shay Perkins and Jaime Tijerina.

Cadet candidates in the audience did not have to take the pledge but were informed they could visit the "It's On Us" website at www.itsonus.org to do so.

President Barack Obama launched the "It's On Us" initiative in September along with student leaders from nearly 200 colleges as an awareness campaign to help end sexual assault on college campuses. The Air Force Academy joined the initiative in November.