JROTC’s future at school is uncertain

District may consolidate program due to low numbers

Aaron Deans, Staff Writer

Branham’s JROTC program has been running since the school was founded. However, due to recent low enrollment, the program now faces the possibility of cancellation next semester.
The program may soon be cancelled because enrollment is too low. ROTC members have been encouraging others at Branham to join the program next semester. One of the ROTC instructors recently spoke to each of the B-day classes about the program.

According to Gunnery Sgt. Steven Mobley, the program has already been experiencing low enrollment for a while, but it’s still progressively decreasing.  Whether the program continues or not is decided by United States Marine Corps.

“To have only 20 or 30 kids in the program in one school is not feasible. So there’s talk that it might go away, not for sure yet, so we’ll just have to play it by ear.”

At Branham, ROTC is often stereotyped as being associated closely with the military, especially judging by its name and the uniforms worn by ROTC students. However, the program’s focus is not military preparation; it’s geared toward helping students become better, stronger people.

“A lot of times, people get the wrong message,” Mobley said.  “You think because you take the class, we want you to go into the military, that we’re here to put you in the military as a process, which we don’t.”

Rather than military preparation, the core goal of the program is to instill leadership skills in students.

Sophomore Benjamin Austin, an ROTC student since freshman year, said the class is distinguished by the skills it teaches students. “We learn a lot of leadership skills that are really applicable to life,” he said. “It’s really pushing you to push yourself in PT [Physical Training] and drill and just making yourself better as a person.”

Since it’s often associated with the military, ROTC ends up inheriting common military stereotypes: getting yelled at constantly by the instructor, receiving some severe punishment whenever you put a toe out of line, and other stereotypes which don’t necessarily apply to ROTC.  As a result, some non-ROTC students fail to see the strong emotional aspect offered by the class.

Sophomore Amy Kawasaki, in her second year, said that ROTC has a bonding aspect that P.E. doesn’t have.  “Everyone’s super close, and everyone you meet in there you’ll probably be friends with the rest of your time in high school,” she said. “It kind of is [like PE] because of the physical aspect.  But… you get to know these people, and some of the best friends that I have now, I met in ROTC.”

Kawasaki said the cancellation of the program would be difficult for her, even though she would be alright academically.

“Purely on the academic standpoint, if it does drop, I’ve already taken all my P.E. credit, so I wouldn’t really worry about it,” she said. “But I would be really sad because I wouldn’t be able to meet as many people.”

According to Mobley, Branham and Del Mar are currently the only schools in the district where ROTC is available.  ROTC students from other schools must go to either campus for the program; Leigh ROTC students come to Branham during sixth period, while Prospect students go to Del Mar.

If ROTC were stopped at Branham, ROTC students from Branham and Leigh might be able to go to Del Mar for the class, although this isn’t certain.