A new club started this year at Washington High School may eventually lead to an official JROTC program.
The Future Soldiers of America Club began meeting this past February and its sponsor hopes to grow membership and possibly change the name next year to Future JROTC.
“I hope this will be the precursor to a JROTC program, but we’re not there yet,” said Carla Campbell, an Army veteran and special education teacher who is volunteering her time to lead the group.
“I think by changing the name we might get more kids interested,” she said. Right now, there are 13 members, all but one are seniors who have enlisted in the military with delayed entry.
“These kids are trying to get a head start on their enlistment, but JROTC doesn’t mean you’re going to enlist, it’s really about discipline, character building, citizenship and leadership,” said Campbell, who also has been in contact with the local Army recruiting office about getting a program started.
“They are interested in helping and already provided some uniforms for our kids to borrow for an assembly held in April at the school,” she said. “We need about 90 kids to start a JROTC and the recruiting office said its battalion could help pay for the uniforms.”
Right now the group will remain as a club at the school, but Campbell and her members are conducting a survey to gauge interest for an official JROTC program, possibly in the 2013-14 school year.
“Many students have asked about it so I hope we can make it happen,” she added.
Issues to be worked out include finding room for the program in the school class schedule and funding.
“JROTC is a class and kids receive a credit,” Campbell explained. “Our school calendar is already developed for next year and it has to be determined what kind of credit will be received, such as history, fine art or practical art . . . we’re looking into all of that.”
A teacher or leader also is needed and Campbell says she’s up to the task.
“I’m still researching all of the costs associated with the program,” she said. “We also would need school board approval and then submit an application, but I don’t think it would be difficult to get approval from the Army. They are looking for schools to start programs.”
Campbell said if a JROTC program is started at WHS it will be Army.
“We already have an Air Force JROTC at St. Clair High School and Marines at Pacific and you can’t duplicate services (within a specific area),” she said, “plus I served in the Army and that’s where my knowledge would be.”
Union High School also is looking into starting a program, she noted.
“If we can get an actual program, the class would meet every day and would cover everything from military history, mapping skills, survival skills, radio communication and more,” she said. “As a club meeting just once a week we can’t really get into much detail.”
From the initial survey results, Campbell said there appears to be a lot of interest for an official program.
WHS Principal Dr. Frank Wood said while there are a lot of details to be worked out, he’s excited about the possibility and the interest by the kids.
“I think I’m most proud that the kids took the initiative to get the club started,” he said. “We still have some research to do to make sure we have adequate facilities and staff, as well as get the school board’s approval. This isn’t something you can just say let’s do it, you have to make it work in the schedule, but it’s something we’ll work toward.”
Currently, the club is meeting on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the west wing area of the high school.