CHHS JROTC tries to save program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2001

Staff Writer

Some Charles Henderson High School students literally took their protest to the streets early Tuesday morning.

A total of about 45 students lined up in front of their high school, urging motorists to support their efforts in saving the JROTC program from the grips of proration.

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Students in the JROTC program have been told budget cuts to the Troy City Schools budget may result in cuts to that program, but no decision has been made as of yet.

"There has been no action," said Hank Jones, superintendent of the Troy City Schools. "There has been discussion. ROTC is certainly a program that is being looked at."

Jones said the program at CHHS has two instructors and "the student load is not enough to justify the expense of two units."

He said JROTC costs the school system $66,000 each year ­ $45,000 of which is in salaries ­ and only 72 students are in the program, which should have 90 students "to make it fiscally viable."

To the school system, the program is a matter of money, but it’s not that for those involved.

Miracle Mathews held a sign declaring "Out with Proration. In with Education."

The junior, who plans to go into the National Guard, said the JROTC program is her "backbone" and she fears it will be broken.

Shanta Daniels is a freshman with dreams of a military career. She arrived at school early Tuesday to voice her feelings about a proposal to eliminate the JROTC program at Charles Henderson High School.

"It helps young people who want to go into the Army learn the basics," Daniels said of JROTC.

Tenecia Crawford believes "ROTC is a great program" and wants to see it remain on campus even after she’s gone.

"It’s a shame it’s being cut," the high school senior said. "There’s a demand in the military service."

Crawford said those involved in JROTC learn things that make them "well-rounded" individuals who develop leadership and discipline skills through the program.

Brad Lilley’s uniform shirt is decorated with ribbons for his achievements in JROTC.

The junior hopes his experience in JROTC will help him earn a college degree.

"This is going to help me through college," Lilley said.

"It’s taught me a whole bunch," he said of the "structured" environment. Those teachings have him leaning toward a career in the military.

"I’m trying to go into the Air Force and this will be a real plus," Lilley said.

But, others may not have those experiences if the program is eliminated by the Troy City Board of Education.

Angie Cox said there is no real justification in cutting JROTC because the United States Army provides much of what is used in the program.

The mother of a JROTC member said 43 percent of the instructors’ salaries are paid for by the military, students uniforms are provided by the Army and all materials and field trip expenses are paid for through fund raisers.

Cox said Army recruiters have told her they will "lose a lot" if the program is cut, but she fears the elimination of JROTC will have much more serious consequences.

"It’s going to cause a problem if they cut this program," Cox said, referring to discipline problems that have been eliminated through involvement with JROTC.

Rhonda Hebert’s son has been involved in JROTC and she is only one parent who does not want to see the program cut from the curriculum.

"There are 250 schools on the waiting list (to have JROTC programs)," Hebert said. "The chances of getting it back are none."

That, she said, is what concerns her because she has seen the program’s benefits on the students involved.

"They all gain something," Hebert said. "For a lot of them, its’ the only structure they have. "They’re putting their heart into it.

"They feel this is the only thing they’re good at," she said of the students lined along George Wallace Drive holding signs up to passing motorists.

"Hopefully, the board of education will look somewhere else," Hebert said of cuts being made in next year’s budget.

Hebert also pointed out the color guard is often called upon to present the American flag at local events. If the JROTC program is eliminated, that, too, will come to a halt.

JROTC has been a part of Charles Henderson High School since the 1970s, when military involvement was not popular and protests were held because it did exist. It survived that and parents and students are hoping it comes out unharmed this time.