Eighth-graders experience Air Force Jr. ROTC program
More than 20 eighth-graders from six different middle schools spent a day last week experiencing what it’s like to be part of the Lincoln Public Schools Air Force Jr. ROTC program.
On Jan. 16, the middle-school students participated in a typical week’s worth of activities squeezed into one, seven-hour visit to Lincoln Northeast High School, where the program is based.
They participated in team-building activities, physical training exercises and learned the basics of marching. They also observed a uniform inspection, which occurs once a week when cadets wear uniforms to school.
“I’m hoping they’ll catch an interest in our program. It’s a way to advertise what we’re doing,” said Trent Woodruff, a retired Air Force master sergeant and the program’s instructor.
While it is a military program at its core, Woodruff stressed that a student does not need to be interested in joining the military to participate in Jr. ROTC.
“What my mission is, is to teach them some life skills that prepare them for life after high school. It has nothing to do with the military,” he said. “We use the military aspects to teach things but I don’t care if you join the military. If you’re going to be a banker or an electrician or a doctor, I don’t care. I want to make them better at whatever they’re going to do.”
Roughly 100 students - from all six LPS high schools - are currently enrolled in the program. Students spend a portion of the day at their home high school. At Northeast, Jr. ROTC cadets take program-specific courses about leadership, exploration of space and the science of flight. They also are heavily involved in the community through “cadet community service projects” and take a number of field trips throughout the year.
Senior cadet Trevor Curtis has been in the program since ninth grade. He plans on joining the military after graduation, but - like Woodruff - he stressed that’s not the case for an overwhelming majority of cadets.
“Most people just see it as a way to build themselves, to build their resume, so when they go to college they have that,” Curtis said. “When they go on a job interview, they’ll see they were part of this and might be more likely to hire them.”
Samara Follette, an eighth-grader at Culler Middle School, said she learned a lot during her day at Northeast and plans on signing up for the program next year.
“All of the people we’ve been interacting with today are super fun. They’re real people,” she said. “I’ve always been a leader but I think this program will help me more with that.”
Curtis hoped the eighth-graders not only learned the nuts and bolts of the program, but also gained an understanding of its culture, as well.
“This program is a family.”
Published: January 21, 2020, Updated: January 29, 2020