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Originally published: 2013-03-25 09:56:04
Last modified: 2013-03-25 09:56:04

JROTC program approved for WHS

Watauga High School has received official approval to start a Marine Corps Junior ROTC program next school year, Superintendent David Kafitz announced Friday.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps provides courses and extracurricular opportunities for high school students who may have an interest in joining the armed forces.

The school system has been working to start a JROTC program for several years, and the interest level has been high among students, Principal Marshall Gasperson said.

"To me, it's another piece that is going to give a student an incentive to stay in school and also to do well in school," Gasperson said.

More than 50 students already have registered for the classes next year, and rising freshmen have not even begun signing up, he said.

The program requires that a school grow to include at least 25 students per grade level within a few years, but Gasperson said a successful program will include more than 100 students.

The school system will likely begin recruiting in May for two instructors, who are typically retired Marines, Kafitz said.

Watauga County Schools will be responsible for paying a portion of the instructors' salaries, and Kafitz said he believed the two together would cost less than one teaching position. The Marine Corps will pay for equipment and uniforms, he said.

Space was included in the new high school specifically for a JROTC program.

Students involved in the program will complete one, yearlong class during the school day designed to emphasize citizenship, character development, leadership and community service. Students also participate in physical fitness tests, drill competitions, field trips, marksmanship and other extracurricular activities as part of the program.

Kafitz and Gasperson said the program would not have been approved without help from the offices of Rep. Virginia Foxx, Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan.

Gasperson said he worked previously at a school that offered Air Force JROTC and is excited to see Watauga High School students use the program to better prepare for life after graduation.

"I can't see a negative right now," Gasperson said. "I think it's something that a certain portion of our population will like to do, whether they ever go into the military or not."