Darlington County Intervention School JROTC competition team excelling
The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Darlington County Intervention School (DCIS), a program administrators say instills leadership skills in students, earned early success for its 2015-16 competitive campaign.
The JROTC color guard won first place at the season’s inaugural competition at Green Sea Floyds High School and placed second overall as a unit at the second competition at Loris High School. JROTC instructors lauded the achievements, given the logistics of student enrollment at the Darlington County School District’s behavioral intervention school.
Students in sixth through 12th grades usually attend DCIS for disciplinary reasons in lieu of expulsion. A large portion of assignments to DCIS, which operates in part with a military-style discipline and leadership culture, last just a semester before students can return to their home schools.
That presents difficulties in developing team chemistry and consistency for competitions that JROTC regularly attends. DCIS competes against other, traditional high schools from across the state. Yet, dedication from DCIS students through JROTC, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Roberts, ensures the program continues to find success. Roberts is an Army instructor at the school.
“They do an outstanding job against those other high schools that meet every day and have a set schedule,” Roberts said. “Student have truly realized their potential to redefine themselves amongst their peers. After they see that they are capable of success, we begin to see a higher level of motivation and enthusiasm.”
In fact, when the school brought in the JROTC program in 2002, the unit attained an “Honor Unit with Distinction” merit the following year. The program has maintained the distinction ever since, the highest of three merit levels a JROTC program can receive.
JROTC is the U.S. Department of Defense’s largest youth development program with more than 300,000 cadets enrolled in 1,731 high schools, according to the official JROTC website. About 4,000 retired U.S. Army soldiers lead the JROTC programs nationwide with a mission to “motivate young people to be better citizens.”
That mission aligns with the DCIS mission of offering challenging and innovative programs to equip students with strong academic and social skills in order to successfully guide them back to a regular school setting.
“If you’re trying to instill discipline, no one does it better than our military,” said Lt. Col. Johnny Pierce, the DCIS senior Army instructor. “We want to help students understand that although they may be here for negative reasons, they can excel through positive accomplishments.”
That positivity, when students see it in action, fosters student engagement, Pierce said.
JROTC cadets participate in physical training each morning and dress in uniform on Wednesdays, routines that afford cadets opportunities to build pride in their endeavors. Many cadets evolve from participating to becoming leaders within the program, Roberts said.
As cadets come to understand the expectation of the team, they begin to expect equal effort and enthusiasm from other cadets. This semester, cadets took it upon themselves to show up on a professional development day, when there were no classes, to practice for a competition.
“It matters to them,” Pierce said. “Given the opportunity, they step right up and perform.”
The respect, discipline and success JROTC seeks to promote in the school environment can translate into the home, administrators at DCIS stressed.
“Absolutely. I’ve had parents tell me this is the first time their child ever said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘Yes, ma’am,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of family support.”
All of the dedication from students and administrators since 2002 will pay off this spring in an impressive way: DCIS will host a JROTC competition for the first time on March 12.
Dr. Zenobia Edwards, principal at DCIS, described the chance to host the event as a testament to the teamwork behind the program’s success. She said DCIS will “host it with excellence.”
JROTC teams perform in three categories during competition: regulations with arms, regulations without arms and color guard. Schools arrive by 8:30 a.m. to the host site and events last until around 1 p.m.
For more information about programs at the Darlington County Intervention School, to schedule interviews or to learn more about the first-ever JROTC competition at DCIS in March, please contact the Darlington County School District Office of Communications at 843-398-2284.