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The Joint JROTC Color Guard, made up of students from Dobyns-Bennett, Sullivan South and Sullivan North high schools, presents the colors during the 2020 Veterans Day ceremony at the Kingsport Veterans Memorial at J. Fred Johnson Park.

Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox is to be commended for his decision to have the JROTC program at West Ridge High School when it opens this fall.

“That decision was made several months ago,” county school board Chairman Randall Jones said recently. “It was up to the director of schools, and he announced it at a school board meeting.”

West Ridge will have an Air Force JROTC made up of members of existing Navy and Air Force units. That means the county school system will have one Air Force program at West Ridge and will keep the existing Navy program at Sullivan East High. The Air Force Junior ROTC program is grounded in the Air Force core values of “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”

Students who participate in JROTC are not required to join the military after high school, and the program is not a military preparation class. The mission is to prepare students to become better citizens. The JROTC curriculum, which fully or partially addresses a number of national academic standards, includes course work on leadership, civics, geography and global awareness, health and wellness, language arts, life skills, and U.S. history.

The curriculum is based on the principles of performance-based, learner-centered education and promotes development of core abilities: capacity for life-long learning, communication, responsibility for actions and choices, good citizenship, respectful treatment of others, and critical thinking techniques.

More important than what is learned in JROTC is how it is learned. Students engage in meaningful, purposeful activities that lead them to demonstrate success through a portfolio of accomplishments. Every learning experience in the curriculum addresses core abilities with cadets learning to make decisions, performing skills and service and solving problems.

Retired Master Sgt. Don Shawver and retired Lt. Col. Jack Rickman, currently at Sullivan South, will be the instructors at West Ridge. Transferring Navy cadets from North will keep rank and any ribbons they’ve earned. The combined units transferring to West Ridge have about 115 cadets, but with a student body of an estimated 2,000, many more may join.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teaches high school students the value of citizenship, leadership, service to the community, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment, while instilling in them self-esteem, teamwork and self-discipline.

What a difference it would make if all high schools in America at least had the opportunity for their entire student body to experience the JROTC program.

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