The high school cadets from the Gold Iron Horse Battalion presented the middle school alumni with a color guard and exhibition drill performance, giving the students a taste of what the JrRTOC program is about, said Sgt. Stan Smith.
“We basically gave them a rundown of what it’s like at Sparks High,” Smith said.
Battalion Commander Brenda Valadez and Battalion Command Sgt. Major Alisha Ashford, both seniors, and many of the 169 enrolled JrRTOC cadets, spoke to the middle-schoolers and answered many questions about the program, he said.
The Sparks High School JrROTC program’s mission is to “motivate students to become better citizens,” Smith said. “We teach them about the history of the flag, how government works, the We the People program, first aid. We teach them all kinds of classes.”
Once a month, the students are also given an official uniform inspection.
“We’ve got some great kids at this school,” Smith said. “We’re pleasantly surprised to see the caliber of great kids.”
Some students who attend all four years of the program go on to enter a branch of the military at a level where they automatically receive an entry pay rate that is two grades higher than entry-level enlistees.
This year’s seniors at Sparks High School include a few seniors who are looking at the National Guard, Navy, Merchant Marines and Army, Smith said.
“(The program has) given them an idea,” Smith said. “It saves you two years of time. It’s pretty significant. We’re motivating young people to be better citizens. I would like to think we hold our students to a higher standard. We discipline them and try and correct behaviors. And the values one receives by joining are invaluable.”
With a high minority, non-English speaking population, Smith said he often sees students achieve language skills during the course of the program.
“We have a large minority population here at Sparks High. It’s not a secret,” Smith said. “After a while, they’re part of the team. It incorporates a team spirit.”
Sparks High School JrROTC will host a Parent’s Night on March 28.