By Cadet Christian Trimarchi
Since near the start of the 2018 to 2019 school year, cadets from the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Gamecock Battalion at the University of South Carolina have been travelling to a fellow Columbia, South Carolina School, to help with a junior ROTC branch. Eau Claire High School is a local public school where students are offered the option to participate in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC).
NJROTC comes with many benefits when taken full advantage of including leadership training, advanced paygrades if enlisting after college, free access to SAT or ACT tests, and the option to compete on a more competitive level for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Sixty percent of all NJROTC cadets continue to receive higher education, and while not all, many will continue pursuing an officer training program or a job in the military of some sort.
Eau Claire High School is considered a disadvantaged school with minimal funding, where 100% of the students are considered economically disadvantaged according to 2015-16 school year reports. In 2018 the overall U.S. News College Readiness Index was a 7.6 which is less than half than the district average of 18.5. With these negative statistics in mind, it is easy to see how a rigorous academic and physical program designed to help build future leaders at a young age is incredibly valuable in assuring these teenagers create the futures that will be the best for them.
Organized through Captain Porter, various cadets from the ROTC program have been visiting Eau Claire on Fridays in order to help the students, specifically with their physical programs. There cadets help instruct and assists the junior cadets in their activities, ensuring they are working to their maximum ability and assisting them whenever they made need it.
However, Captain Porter has also stressed that cadets that are helping are mentors of sorts and can help show the junior cadets where they can be in the future if they apply themselves. The cadets offer themselves as academic resources as well as guides should any NJROTC members have questions about college or the military.
Captain Porter feels as if this is one of the best ways to possibly give back to the community, saying, “It’s about paying opportunities forward. Growing up in a single parent home with lack of mentorship and guidance, there was a chance where I may not have received the necessary guidance to get access to higher education, but I did via coaches and friends. The exposure gave me the drive and will to succeed. Regardless of one’s background socioeconomically, exposure is a lot of times the one thing kids need to get the over the hump. If I can get the chance to expose those kids, they may then get the chance to succeed.”
While these students often start out disadvantage when compared to many others, the students in the NJROTC program are striving to make the most of what they have available to them, and the ROTC cadets from the University are more than happy to help them achieve their goals. Building a higher sense of community between a high school and university in the same town is beneficial for continuity sense, as well as allowing members of the university who enjoy this location having an opportunity to give back as well as possibly bond with the young cadets. Also, the younger cadets get the chance to learn from trained cadets from a physical and intellectual standpoint while seeing what their leadership is training them for in action.