The last time the Duncanville School District had a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program, the Dallas Mavericks had yet to play their first basketball game and Ronald Reagan was just beginning his presidency.
Now, more than four decades later, the program has returned under the leadership of Sergeant Judith Atkinson, JROTC Army Instructor. The new program made its debut on Aug. 8.
JROTC programs can be affiliated with any branch of service. In Duncanville they are an Army program.
“Since starting up the program in August we have over a hundred students trying to get into the program,” Atkinson said. “We successfully picked our staff members, formed three color guard teams, a raider/physical fitness team and an academic team. Our color guard has performed at three home football games and at the Hispanic Heritage Month observance.”
The program currently has 102 students, of which 53 are males and 49 are females, Atkinson said. It is open for students in grades 9-12.
Senior Alyssa Ontiveros, a Cadet First Lieutenant in the program, said, “Considering the help and offers that JROTC has, which is many, for educational purposes, I would definitely consider using the program’s advantages to help me get to my dreams as they offer free scholarships and many other ways to help your education needs. JROTC has made a positive impact in my life with discipline, integrity, leadership, and helping me be a better person overall with the society of JROTC we do have now.”
And, contrary to what some might think, a student does not have to be considering a career in the military to take part.
“The program is not a stepping stone for students to join the military, it is to motivate young people to be better citizens,” Atkinson said. “Teaching them leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school JROTC.”
However, Ontiveros said she might consider joining one of the military branches, “After I get to live a little bit.”
Marisol Hernandez, a senior Battalion Commander, does plan to use the program to hopefully get into the U.S. Naval Academy.
“The moral standards, the discipline and the lifetime goals that I aspire to achieve through their prestigious education and endless opportunities are only part of the reason why I anticipate, with cautious hope and confidence, attending the Naval Academy,” she said. “As a child of veterans, with my mother in the Navy, my stepfather in the Marines and my biological father in the Army, I plan to leave a legacy and continue our subtle tradition of joining the Armed Forces. I would like to pursue a career in the military, preferably somewhere in the medical field.”
While the new program is still in its infancy, Atkinson said great things are to come as it grows. In fact, they will be participating in the Wreaths Across America project on Dec. 17 at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
“I am very excited to be a part of the startup of this program and can’t wait to take it further,” she said.