When Billy Chatman was a senior in high school, his counselor called him into her office and told him that he was not going to graduate if he didn’t get all of his credits.
“This meant that I needed eight classes in my senior year in order to graduate,” Chatman said. “The normal student only needed six classes, but because I spent my time fighting and chasing girls, I had to take eight classes plus tutoring every morning before school. I did not have a lunch break in my senior year. I got the job done so that I could graduate.”
This drive is what led Chatman to join the Louisville Fire Department at the age of 19, his first major career job. “After being there for eight years, I was promoted to the rank of Sgt. over Hazmat 5, and only two years after that I became the company commander of Tele-Squirt 9,” Chatman said.
In 2005, Chatman was forced to retire from the fire department after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I had plans to move higher in the ranks, but after the diagnosis, my career as a firefighter came to an end,” Chatman said. “After I retired in 2013, my wife and I decided to move back to Tampa. In 2014, I became a school security officer, and in 2018, I became a Tampa police officer with the Reserve Unit.”
When Chatman became involved with the school, he saw many of the struggles and challenges teens were going through, and it broke his heart. This inspired him to create Natural Bourne Leaders Academy.
“Natural Bourne Leaders Academy is a mentoring program where I cultivate the leaders within young men and women who others have given up on,” Chatman said. “Our motto is ‘Shaping Today’s Youth Into Tomorrow’s Leaders.’ The academy is committed to mentoring, motivating and transforming the lives of thousands of youth in the Tampa Bay area. I encourage the youth of today to spread those wings and sore like an eagle.”
Chatman recently gave a $500 scholarship to a student who is graduating this year.
“I use my own funds to help him with his books for college,” Chatman said. “I’ve known him and his family for a while and he really excelled once he became involved with the academy.”
Last year, Chatman also gave two scholarships to two African teens in Kenya.
To learn more about the Natural Bourne Leadership Academy, visit www.naturalbourneleadersacademy.org.