North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

AHS may lose AFJROTC program

Funds for the program may be cut next year due to a lack of enrollment in program

 

February 21, 2018 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Arlington High School AFJROTC students take part in a basic saluting drill on Feb. 15. From left, Jeffrey Jennewein, Cameron Yanity, Sierra McDonald and Maddie Cahoon.

Arlington High School's AFJROTC program may end next year because of the U.S. Congress cutting funding to the program due to a lack of enrollment.

The Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFJROTC) is part of JROTC programs which are offered across the nation and are congressionally funded.

Some students join the program with aspirations to join the military, while others join because they enjoy the program for itself.

"At first, to be honest, I just wanted to get out of science class ... but after the first day of being here I wanted to be here," said Cameron Yanity, an Arlington High School freshman.

"My classmates and Major are awesome, and the uniform makes me feel proud," he said.

Junior Jeffrey Jennewein is a Lakewood High School student who comes to Arlington for the program.

Originally he wanted to join AFJROTC because those who spend two years in the program get the benefit of an instant promotion after basic training.

"When I got here I realized that it's more than just the benefit. And I just really enjoyed the program," said Jennewein.

"I like that it's not just people yelling at you. It's not a junior boot camp. It's people connecting with each other and learning different things," he said.

Instructor Mike Blue, who runs Arlington High School's program, said many kids join simply because of the sense of belonging and the camaraderie.

"A lot of kids say it feels like a second family. Others say this is the family because home sucks," he said.

The curriculum for AFJROTC is 40 percent aerospace science, 40 percent leadership and 20 percent physical education, said Blue.

"It's interesting to learn about the science of how planes work," said Arlington High School student Maddie Cahoon.

Student Matthew Quijada appreciated the leadership aspects as well.

"It teaches me more respect and I meet new people who like the same things as me," he said.

Students in the program frequently participate in the community as well, in parades, as a color guard unit for the U.S. and state flags, and in volunteer opportunities.

"There's a lot of community service and I had a really good time doing the Convoy of Hope [a program last summer which provided support to local low-income families]," said Cahoon.

"The color guard team is a big one for some as they're very visible in the community and some people like to go out and perform in front of a Mariners game and those kind of things," said Blue.

Two years ago Blue received a letter about a potential closure of the program.

The U.S. Congress funds the uniforms, the curriculum and half of the teacher's salary for the program.

Congress requires an enrollment of at least 100 or 10 percent of the student population, whichever is less. For Arlington High School, that means 100 students are required.

"Last year they told us we had to increase enrollment, and we did improve, not to 100 though," said Blue.

Arlington School District's superintendent sent a letter asking for another year, which was granted, but Blue does not think there will be another chance after this year.

He is hopeful that the program will be able to reach 100 students though.

"We're trying some completely different things ... because what we've been doing isn't working well enough," he said.

They have partnered with the school's marketing program and hope to increase outreach at Arlington middle schools.

Many students also said they were disappointed when they heard the news of a potential closure, but soon realized they wanted to help.

"We thought about how we're going to fix this and how we're going to get started. It wasn't just 'oh well, we're just going to sit here and wait to fall over and die.' There was hope in people's eyes and there was the feeling that we're going to get stuff done," said Jennewein.

 

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