JROTC Is Alive and Well in Prince William

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By Kim Howard, CAE

Prince William County Public Schools offer Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines at nine high schools. Students can enter the program in the ninth grade to receive the full benefits of the four-year program. There is no military obligation upon graduation. However, students who participate in the JROTC program can gain advanced military pay grades should they decide to enlist.

Each year, more than 51,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Voice of Democracy audioessay competition. Reserve Officer Training Corps and military academy scholarships may be available for qualified students.

Beyond the Boys Club

“Our “Profile for PWCS for 2015-2016” tells us that the school system had approximately 25,803 high school students. Nearly 1,500 are participating in JROTC this academic year. If that pattern is typical, we have a 5.7 percent participation rate with nine JROTC programs in the county,” said Mary Beth Dobbins, career and technical education coordinator in the Office of Student Learning for Prince William County Public Schools. Woodbridge Senior High School (WSHS) established the first unit in Prince William County in 1993 and estimates that it has had almost 4,000 cadets enrolled in the 24-year program.

And, if you think that JROTC is for young men only, think again. Cadets are often diverse in gender and ethnicity just as the military is. Of the 1,481 JROTC students in the school system, 575 are young women. A sense of accomplishment helps to improve the confidence of these students. Two female cadets provide insight into how JROTC has changed them.

C/CPL Jasmine Chambers, a sophomore, said, “My greatest sense of accomplishment about participating in JROTC is going to practices (JLAB and color guard) and taking charge of the team for the practices and solving problems within the team.”

C/PFC Sarai Rodriguez, a freshman, also echoed the sense of accomplishment the cadets feel while they participate in the program: “My greatest sense of accomplishment while being in JROTC was when I was selected for the S-4 shop as well as being selected for the cadet leadership camp JCLC.”

Nurturing Cadets to Succeed

Neuroscientists now suggest that the brain does not mature until age 25. The decision-making part of the teenage brain is still developing while students are in high school, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Along with proper parental guidance, teachers and mentors can help to positively impact teenagers.

“Assisting young children in becoming young adults through hands-on training, life lessons and informing them to make quality decisions based on the “Army’s Seven Core Values”; and having former JROTC cadets return after graduating or reading on social media about how they were able to use the JROTC program to chart a path to success or are on the road to finding success provides me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment,” said LTC Ret. Vic Burnette, Senior Army Instructor for the WSHS Army JROTC.

1SG Ret. Dan Jackson has also seen the cadets’ self-esteem improve over the course of four years in the JROTC program. “Seeing the cadets grow from ninth grade to their senior year is amazing. You get to see this person with low self-esteem and zero confidence grow into a person with high self-esteem and motivation to go out and tackle the world. When they come back after graduation thanking us (cadre) for what we do and how JROTC has prepared them for life even if they don’t join the military or go off to college, they still have that positive character of better citizens. I get a tremendous sense of accomplishment from helping to shape these future adults,” he said.

JROTC consists of education programs designed to teach leadership skills, character development, self-discipline and citizenship. C/CPT Noah Kirk, a junior, said that supporting the community is crucial in his role. “As a cadet leader in JROTC, my greatest sense of accomplishment comes from assisting those in need in our community through community service and service learning activities,” he said.

C/SSG Tyler Donovan, a sophomore, echoed Kirk’s experience. “As a cadet leader in JROTC, the greatest sense of accomplishment is completing difficult missions and tasks and participating in community service or service learning projects,” he said.

For questions related to JROTC programs, please call Career and Technical Education/Student Learning at 703-791-7297 or visit pwcs.edu/academics___programs/j_r_o_t_c.

Kim Howard, CAE (khoward@princewilliamliving.com) is the editor in chief of Prince William Living and a military brat who is married to an Air Force veteran. She is also a publishing and communications consultant. Learn more about her at writecommunicationsllc.com


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