Adina Mayo – Mustangs Ahead
(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL)- Over the summer, the LRHS Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadet staff planned and held a three-day prep program for incoming first-year students. They have held the program only three times since the first prep program during the summer of 2016.
Out of 16 participants, most were incoming freshman. It was the best turnout the program has had in all three years; nine participated in 2016, and 12 in 2017.
Freshman Olivia Sahr was a part of the program.
“I heard about the program from upperclassmen in JROTC,” said Sahr. “I wanted to gain a better perspective of what to expect. It made me much more comfortable in my position.”
Freshman Olivia D’Orazio also attended the program.
“I wanted to get a general feel for what the program was about, and to calm my nerves about being in JROTC,” said D’Orazio. “They taught everything really well, and I understand JROTC a lot more now.”
JROTC instructors Lt. Col. Richard Roller and Sgt. William Cassidy run the LRHS program, but they let the cadet staff run the prep program.
“It’s a part of leadership development,” said Roller. “If you don’t provide students opportunities to exercise the stuff they’ve learned, they lose those abilities.
“They had the opportunity to prepare, rehearse, oversee, and execute the program, and then assess how it succeeded and where it could be improved,” he continued.
In the last six years, the JROTC program has not recruited incoming freshman through the middle schools, but that changed this year.
“We’ve grown from 120 students to 180 in the past six years without recruitment, but this year we sent notes out to the administration and guidance counselors at the middle schools just saying ‘Hey, this is available and it’s free’,” stated Roller. “There’s something here that people want, and they get out of it what they put in.”
Junior Matt Hess attended the first ever JROTC prep program in 2016 and is now ranked First Sergeant.
“It’s definitely improved this year. With repetition and time comes improvement,” said Hess. “Everything gets better.
“Being at the bottom of the chain of command definitely helped me lead this year’s prep program,” Hess continued. “I saw the problems with the way I was being taught, and that experience stayed with me as leader of the program this year. I was able to make changes to improve the experience.”