The fate of Coventry's Junior ROTC program could be decided as early as Tuesday.
You might be thinking: So what? It's just another group of kids, and some extracurricular activity!
But it is more than that. To these kids, it’s a place where they fit, where they belong, where they can be themselves and grow individually and as a team. It’s a place where they can explore future career options and be encourage to develop and grow.
The JROTC is about more than just the kids and their families, it is a great asset to the community. Last year the kids logged over 1,000 hours of community service. They have helped homeless and at-risk veterans, they are assisting with a community garden, the Coventry Community Food Bank, and the Air Show. To the community, the volunteer hours put in by these kids is invaluable. The kids have grown through service and touched the lives of so many within their community, but now, they might not be able to do that anymore.
The JROTC Program at Coventry High School is part of the voc-tech program at the high school. As of now 87 kids are enrolled, the problem is to regain funding from the United States Air Force there needs to be 100 or more kids enrolled. The group was given two years to bring up its enrollment, right now we are at the one year mark and the school committee of Coventry is the new threat. Due to major funding issues the committee is looking at places and programs to cut and you better believe the JROTC is on the chopping block.
According to parents and students enrolled in the program, one school member by the name of Ann Dickson, said at a recent meeting that the JROTC program offers no value to the children as far as life skills or providing them with any beneficial tools for their future.
This unfortunate statement indicates a real problem in how society views the military. The idea that a program that encourages service, honor, brotherhood, and commitment could offer no skills to teenagers in their most vulnerable years is an outlandish statement to say the least. Some of the parents who have kids in the program have talked about how the program has changed their kids lives and gave them a whole community and network of their own. It has given kids hope for the future and a productive way to spend their spare time. It has encouraged the teens to live healthy active lifestyles and to give back to the community.
Many of the kids are interested in careers within the service community after high school whether that be a career as a police officer, a firefighter, a career in the military, or enrolling into a military academy. While some might frown on high school students looking at careers in the military but that too is unfortunate. The truth about the military and college is this. Not every child can afford college and not every teenager is ready for college after high school. The military offers teenagers a place to go after high school, to learn discipline, leadership, self-sacrifice, and companionship in a way that can’t be taught at a four years college and after they serve in the military these trained professionals can return home and attend college, for free under their military benefits. For others the military is their career, they may go into a four year program and then join the military as a commissioned officer. Others may attend a military school, such as the highly prestigious West Point Academy.
The bottom line of the situation is this; like it or not the military and military training is a viable career option and programs like the JROTC give teenagers skills that will be crucial in any public service or military career. Learning these important skills at such a young age will help the students succeed in life professionally and personally.
Now, there is concern that student interested in the JROTC program at Coventry High School are being discouraged from signing up as academic advisers are encouraging them to take different classes or sign up for different programs. At least three parents have stepped forward saying their child wanted to be in the program but was unable to do to other scheduling situations.
As of now, there are 87 cadets enrolled, by September if the school gives the program a chance it could be more. The program was given two years by the United States Air Force but now the school committee might strip the program before they have the full time period to meet their numbers.
A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School. At that meeting the school committee is expected to vote on the future of the program.
The cadets and their family members have put their hearts and souls into saving the program and they should be given their fair chance to bring the program back and meet their numbers. The skills learned by participating in the program and the value to the community alone should be enough to encourage the school committee to give the kids a chance and let them have another year. It’s unfortunate that a program so closely related to the military is being frowned upon and even in some sense discredited by those who oppose it. The men and women who serve our nation are in many ways the soul of this country. If it weren’t for them we would not enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy everyday and instead of trying to take away this valuable programs from teenagers we should be trying to grow and expand them.
Whether or not you live in Coventry, this issue should be real for you because it just goes to show where the values in our society are heading and what the true priorities of education are today. The military should be celebrated not depreciated or undervalued. Programs like the JROTC instill real values in teenagers early on that will be useful to them no matter what career path they end up on and this is why we should save the program instead of making it one of the first to go.