Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs can instill skills in students that help them in all aspects of life.
Citizenship, leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.
"JROTC is based on leadership," says Shelbi Davis, 18, a senior at Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia, Missouri. "It just helps you work with others and be able to clearly express yourself and not be afraid of what people think of you."
Davis, a cadet colonel in her high school's junior ROTC program, is one of the thousands of teens who participate in the military-themed character development programs at high schools across the nation.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard each operate their own versions of the program for high schoolers, which are offered at more than 3,000 U.S. high schools as an elective course.
High schoolers and their parents should consider these aspects of junior ROTC before enrolling in a program.
- There is no military obligation: Students who participate in junior ROTC are not required to join the military after high school, and the program is not a military preparation class.
"That is not the mission of JROTC at all, the mission is to prepare children to become better citizens," says retired Maj. Trina Tilque, commandant and senior Army instructor at Military and Global Leadership Academy at Marie G Davis, a public magnet school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But the programs do have a strong military influence. They are taught by retired military personnel and partially funded by the military. Course work includes military history and customs, and students are required to wear a uniform at least twice a month.
Students also partake in physical fitness training and drill instruction as well, among other activities.
- The program emphasizes skills for life: In a junior ROTC class, students can build soft skills such as leadership, self-confidence and discipline – qualities that are necessary to thrive in any career.
"I do everything from teach them how to tie a tie to iron a shirt, to marching and what it is to be an overall good citizen," says retired Master Sgt. Louis Diaz , a junior ROTC instructor at Woodbridge High School in New Jersey.
Connor O'Day, 17, a senior at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, says that his favorite part about being in the junior ROTC program is learning how to lead. He is the student commanding officer of his school's roughly 200-student program.
"The program, at least in my case, has made me feel more confident in applying for college and such," he says.
- Junior ROTC can prepare students for post-high school success: Both Tilque and Diaz, the two Army junior ROTC instructors , say that they help their students navigate options for life after high school.
Diaz says that he teaches his students about financial aid, financial planning and even how to fill out the FAFSA form.
"The instructors are like your parents," says Davis, the high school senior in Missouri, in that they want the best for members, help ensure they get to college and help them find scholarships. "They really help you out through that process, which is very important because a lot of kids in high school don't get that."
She says she aspires to be a trauma surgeon and would like to join the military once she finishes college.
O'Day, the high school senior in Indianapolis, says he would also like to join the military after college. He plans on studying mechanical engineering.
"I feel like it is a great experience if you really get yourself involved in it," says O'Day.