After years of work, an effort to enrich student’s lives has come to fruition. Richmond County Public Schools now have a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).
On Monday, Schools Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith, School Board Chairman John Brown and instructional officer Sgt. Connor Samuel explained how important this new program is for area youth.
“We were talking as an instructional team about positively impacting as many of our students who were not athletically, agriculturally or musically inclined,” Smith said. “We found we had a bunch of students who we felt we weren’t serving in a well-rounded way and we started looking at programs and JROTC was one of the programs that we recognized would make a strong contribution to the community.”
Although in its infancy and not fully accredited, the program already has exceeded expectations.
“Sgt. Samuel, who was at Northumberland Schools and had a successful program, indicated that he was seeking a new challenge. We were fortunate to get him into Richmond County and he has been a very positive addition,” Smith said. “We had projected 50 students and currently we are at 70 plus.”
Smith added that it has been amazing to watch these students perform so well.
“This is going to give these kids pride, especially in being involved with something like this that is important,” Brown said.
Samuel, who spent 20 years in the army and 15 years in teaching JROTC in Northumberland, added that the program teaches children respect for themselves and others.
“They don’t have to go into the military; we just want them to be better citizens,” Samuel said.
According to Smith, the U.S. Army pays for half the cost of the program and the school district pays for the rest. The JROTC will compete throughout the east coat and the honor guard will participate in games and parades.
Samuel added that the students will also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as all branches of the military.
“We are not here to get them to join the military, we teach more than just drills. We have financial planning, government, physical training, self-esteem and healthy eating, Samuel said. “Respect is the key. I am a person that is really hot on respect. Respect yourself first and everything else will fall into play.”
On Wednesday, the new JROTC members will be presenting the colors, 5 p.m. at the School Board meeting. On Friday, at 7 p.m. there will be a cadet singing the national anthem at the high school football game along with a presentation of colors and on Saturday they will participate in a parade at Mulberry church.
For more information on the program, visit www.usarmyjrotc.com or call the school board at 804-333-3681.