Three years ago NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps) was an endangered program at Ramon High School. The numbers were down. The unit was canceled temporarily. The Naval Science instructors left.
A group of concerned citizens tried to salvage the program. Most thought that they were wasting their time and the time and money of the Ramona Unified School District.
“I was asked to prove the worth of the unit. Our numbers were low,” explained Lt. Cmdr. (retired) Mike Ernst.
Interest was lower than the numbers. Ernst left a thriving program at Chaffey High School with job security to be closer to his home in Ramona. It was a gamble. He joined up with another gambler, CPO (retired) Bob Richardson, and they went to work.
They got the numbers. They got support from the administration and the community. They did not lower their standards. They inspired their students to reach those standards.
The NJROTC unit at RHS went from the doghouse to the penthouse. Instead of just going to competitions, they went to compete. Instead of just trying to compete, they tried to win. They went from the worst to a shot at first.
Last year the unit was selected as the most improved unit in the country. They continued to work. With success came pride. Pride in accomplishment became individual pride. Individual pride became unit pride.
Students didn’t just go to class. They hung around after school. They hung around at lunch. Hanging around turned into working to improve. The work paid off. Improvement became a reality.
Since Ernst and Richardson have taken over, 10 cadets have chosen to enter military service. NJROTC cadets can enter the service at a higher pay grade than the average high school graduate. “They enter at E2 or E3 depending on how long they were in the unit. An E2 gets about $300 a month more than an E1. An E3 gets about $500 more starting pay than an E1. This year our commanding officer, Amanda Robershaw, has an excellent chance of getting an ROTC scholarship. She wants to go to Point Loma and become a nurse. If she gets the scholarship, her tuition will be fully paid.”
Few, if any, other programs offer higher pay for high school graduates. Sarah Gideon and Robert Cook were admitted to the prestigious nuclear power training program of the Navy.
Executive Officer Adi Gutierrez has already represented the unit and the community as a Congressional Page. She has been chosen to attend leadership training at Emery Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Fla. She is only a junior. She, too, has an excellent shot at an ROTC scholarship. Jed Stock saved lives in a hotel fire after he graduated from USMC boot camp.
The unit has just made another step forward. Ramona’s NJROTC Unit just took fourth place in the states of California and Arizona. On March 11, Ramona competed in the Area 11 Super Bowl at Santa Ana High School. To get there, they had to win one of 17 field meets held prior to the Super Bowl.
Ramona finished second overall in physical training. The team of four male cadets and four female cadets took second in pushups, first place in situps, fifth place in the 16 X 100 (eight male and eight female) relay and fifth in the 8 X 220 relay.
Kelsey Perry won the female situp competition with 301. Robert Chisholm did 100 pushups to take second place and Bart Hodge did 93 push ups to take third. The unit also did well in drill, inspection and academics. Their hard work paid off. Funny, it doesn’t seem like hard work if it is fun and leads to success.
The fourth place finish was the best in school history. They entered as an underdog and competed for Top Dawg honors.
NJROTC has students from all walks of student life. Students with special needs work hand in hand with advanced placement students. They work together and they win.
A group of cadets will be taking a trip to Hawaii during Spring Break to see Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Missouri, and the U.S.S. Arizona. A luau and some snorkeling will also be on the agenda. That does not sound like hard work. It sounds like fun. Sometimes the two go hand in hand. Sometimes one leads to the other. The Sentinel will cover the trip to Hawaii.