Xenia school officials are working to be selected for an Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program at the high school, and Air Force officials visited the school Thursday to inspect the facilities and give a presentation.
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Wayne Barron, regional director of Air Force Junior ROTC based at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., spoke to students and staff members prior to touring the school. He said his first impressions are that an AFJROTC program would be a good fit in Xenia.
“There’s a lot of community support here,” Barron said.
With an enrollment of about 1,200 students, the minimum number of Xenia students who would need to be enrolled in JROTC is 100, according to the program’s requirements. Barron said they would like to see about 130 students enrolled.
The four-year program, which would be open to students in grades 9-12, would require the district to add two instructors to lead the curriculum. The salaries for those positions would be paid partly by the district and partly by the national AFJROTC program.
In addition to physical fitness activities, the coursework includes aerospace science and leadership education.
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A major driving force behind Thursday’s visit is Xenia High School senior Aaron Shirk, who petitioned students and has been working with school officials to add the program since he was a freshman.
Shirk said he likes the work ethic and team-building that happens in ROTC programs.
“I was a little sad that I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the program, but I’m excited to have it here for future generations to come,” he said.
Principal Henry Jackoby said it was a special day, with the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base rock band Systems Go performing for the students. Guests included State Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek), Ohio Sen. Bob Hackett (R-District 10) as well as local community leaders, including Mayor Marsha Bayless.
“Our students were the ones who pushed this,” Jackoby said. “The students absolutely need something that they know is going to instill leadership in them and give them a successful stepping stone into the future.”
Barron said the program helps develop character and leadership qualities in high school students.
“We put cadets in charge of things, and if they break something, we can fix it. It’s a learning opportunity for all the kids,” he said. “We want to get them ready for the real world and whatever they’re going to do after high school.”
Barron added that AFJROTC is not about recruiting new soldiers in the military.
“We’re a citizen development program. We are not tied to recruiting in any way shape or form … less than 4 percent of our students who are in Junior ROTC actually join the military,” Barron said.