More than 860 high school students in Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) are enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs. The JROTC program curriculum is accredited through each military branch and teaches students about military history, leadership, wellness and life skills. Instructors from several high schools presented a JROTC program overview to the Board of Education at its Nov. 12 meeting.
Helping to present were Gunny Sgt. Clive Bailey of La Plata High School, Lt. Col. Linda Ray of North Point High School, Gunny Sgt. Samyra Rogers of St. Charles High School and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Wagenbrenner of Maurice J. McDonough High School.
Each instructor presented facts about the JROTC program and mentioned misconceptions associated with student participation. While some may think the program only teaches students about military service, the mission of the JROTC program is to develop citizens of character who contribute to the community.
Cadets belong to something bigger than themselves, said Bailey, who is a longtime JROTC instructor at La Plata. The program emphasizes service to school, community and the country. “It teaches kids a sense of belonging,” Bailey said.
La Plata High School senior Emily Dutton joined JROTC as a freshman and said the program has changed her life. “As a freshman I didn’t really care about school. I was just in it. … Now I have a 4.0 [GPA] and I would never settle for anything less. JROTC puts us out in the community, gives us a chance to give back,” Dutton said.
Cadets participate in Veterans Day activities and parades, take part in Wreaths Across America at Cheltenham and Arlington military cemeteries and are mentors to other students. They volunteer for Special Olympics, the Charles County Fair and high school graduations.
La Plata senior Philip Flores said his participation in JROTC has been a life changing experience. “It has taught me about leadership and leadership skills. The program allowed me to learn about character,” Flores said.
Henry E. Lackey and North Point high schools are U.S. Air Force units; Maurice J. McDonough and Thomas Stone high schools have U.S. Army units; a U.S. Marine unit is at St. Charles High School and units at La Plata and Westlake high schools represent the U.S. Navy.
Rogers said she has watched the program at St. Charles grow over the past few years. “Younger students are excited to see the cadets. The cadets are excited to do things in the community. We instill leadership in them and teach them about a lot of important trades,” Rogers said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.