Clara Schmiedt was teaching at East Union High when Manteca Unified announced they were establishing a JROTC program at the campus more than 20 years ago.
“There were a few teachers that had reservations,” Schmiedt, who is now Senior Director of Secondary Education for Manteca Unified School District, recalled.
The fear was the JROTC program that is substantially funded through the Army Command would be a recurring career for the military. Those concerns were eliminated after the program was up and running.
“It helps give students a place to fit in,” said Schmiedt who has also worked with JROTC programs as a dean and as principal at Weston Ranch High.
There are four JROTC programs in Manteca Unified — Manteca, Lathrop, Weston Ranch, and Lathrop. The program at Sierra got dropped a number of years back when interest dipped one year.
An effort to restore it at Sierra High — a goal of the district for a number of years — is bogged down due to a long waiting list nationally for funds to open up. Meanwhile, the Lathrop High JROTC has 194 cadets — 153 from Lathrop and 41 from Sierra.
“It speaks highly of how important JROTC is to students when you have 41 students from Sierra going to Lathrop every day to participate,” Schmiedt noted.
Each JROTC program in the district has between 130 and 160 students involved.
JROTC is now an integral part of the high schools.
The JROTC instructors do no recruit students. That said, it isn’t uncommon for students interested in the military to gravitate toward the programs. Last year, as an example, the East Union High JROTC had 16 seniors. Among those 16, five enlisted and one received a three-year scholarship to the Fresno State Army JROTC program. Schmiedt said other high schools have similar numbers of cadets going into the military.
Back in the early part of last decade, a survey showed that more Manteca High football players entered the military than JROTC cadets from the Buffalo Battalion did.
That underscores JROTC’s main mission of teaching students involved with the programs character education, student achievement, wellness, leadership, and diversity by stressing “loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.”
Schmiedt noted that the JROTC program has manifested in improved discipline and a greater sense of community and purpose.
She said teachers like it given on the fairly rare occasions a cadet displays discipline issues in class that a quick talk with the JROTC instructor nips the issue in the bud.
“They (the JROTC cadets) have a great deal of respect for the instructors and the program,” Schmiedt said.
They also develop a sharpened sense of community. Cadets not only present the colors at parades, events, and meetings but they tackle community projects such as Flags Over Manteca, toy drives, gathering personal supplies for troop support packages, and provide manpower for a wide variety of events ranging from Planet Party Day to work details.
They also represent their respective high schools by competing in JROTC competitions against other schools such as Ripon, Atwater and programs in the Sacramento area. Among the competitions are drill teams and physical challenges of which many require teamwork.
The outcomes of the JROTC programs are:
uAct with integrity and personal accountability as they lead others in a diverse and global workforce.
uEngage civic and social concerns in the community, government, and society.
uGraduate prepared to excel in post-secondary options and career pathways.
uMake decisions that promote positive social, emotional, and physical health.
uValue the role of the military and other service organizations.
Working with the school, the JROTC staff achieves the outcomes by employing 21st century technology for student centered curriculum. The curriculum consists of education in citizenship, leadership, social and communication skills, physical fitness and wellness, geography and civics.
JROTC instructors are funded 50-50 by the school district and the Army Command. All supplies, curriculum, and uniform are provided by the Army. The instructors are retired military officers.
Not only do the JROTC programs allow the schools to reach 600 plus students in ways that extracurricular activities such as sports can, but it is done without major impacts on the school budget.
JROTC instructors are part of the faculty and must adhere to Manteca Unified requirements just as any other teacher does. They are expected to be part of staff and participate in staff activities. The JROTC instructors are also evaluated as a teacher by the principal. The Army also conducts reviews of the JROTC programs.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org