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JROTC program blossoming at Riverside High School

Marina Fontalbert, Riverside High School
Riverside sophomore Logan Kinder and freshman Jenny Dayhew are members of the school's JROTC program. Just two years ago, it only had 65 students; now the class has nearly 200.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the largest and most encouraging programs at Riverside High School is the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, instructed by Sergeant Kenneth Butler and Sergeant Aaron Friday. This year, JROTC has 195 students; two years ago, the program only had 65 students enrolled.

Every Wednesday, JROTC students are required to wear their uniforms to school. The program has gotten so large that there aren't even enough uniforms for everyone. Currently, there are 150 uniforms, but the sergeants hope to get more soon.

"The goal for this year is to make sure everyone is fitted and has their own uniform and to graduate all senior cadets," Friday said.

Most of the cadets wear the ACU, or army combat uniform. Others get to wear the ASU, or army service uniform, class B. Some students who wear the ASU also wear a jacket displaying various badges.

The students enrolled in JROTC must maintain 2.0 GPA, wear the uniform and have respect in the class. The sergeants have already kicked out 15 members this year.

Students in JROTC participate in hands-on activities and develop new skills. Now, each cadet is required to give news, weather and sports PowerPoint presentations to the class to help develop their presenting skills. The instructors said they love teaching the students new skills and key lifestyle components.

"This isn't a program to get kids ready for the Army. It is to develop skills and pride in yourself for the road ahead," Friday said.

Leadership is another skill the students learn, with some student cadets in charge of the others. Alex Kinningham is the leader of all JROTC cadets, and Kayla Slack is second in command.

JROTC also has five different teams -- drill, exhibition, rifle, color guard and raider -- that demonstrate their various trained talents in competitions and at assemblies. This past spring, the raider team competed in a Best of the Best raider event in North Carolina. It was the first time a Kanawha County JROTC program was invited to participate.

"Exhibition team is the ones who spin the rifles and perform -- sort of like the movie 'Cadet Kelly' to compare," Sergeant Friday said with a laugh.

Some students, like sophomore Logan Kinder, are on every team; freshman Jenny Dayhaw is working toward being on all of them.

The sergeants think JROTC is a great program for Riverside and all cadets in it. They believe it would be beneficial for all students to participate, as JROTC could help them get through the pressures and troubles of high school. However, it would be difficult for everyone to get into the small program at Riverside.

"In this world we have sheep, sheep dogs and wolves," Friday said. "The sheep are the ones that get picked on and disturbed, the sheep dogs are the ones who watch and just keep it to themselves, and the wolves are the ones who attack the sheep and are the bullies.

"We have sheep here; we can't deny that. And we definitely have wolves -- might even have some in our cadets. But that's not what we encourage. No, we want to make our cadets sheep dogs that protect the sheep and make the school a better place."


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