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Army JROTC may come to Connellsville Area High School

Connellsville Area High School could soon receive an Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

The Army JROTC's mission is "To motivate young people to be better citizens."

Tammy Stern, the district's interim superintendent, said a team from the office of Brenda Gainey, Army JROTC program supervisor, visited the high school on Friday and said enough space exists for the program.

Principal Nick Bosnic will submit application paperwork and Cadet Command will have to provide an official proclamation before any program could begin.

In the meantime, Stern and Bosnic will travel this week to Albert Gallatin Area Senior High School, Georges Township, to observe that school's five-year program.

Stern singled out John Frick from the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., for expediting the process.

"We would like to thank Mr. Frick for all of his efforts to help make this a possibility for us," she wrote in an e-mail sent to Frick, school board members, school officials and the press.

At the August meeting, Stern announced to school directors that current slots for an Army JROTC program had been taken.

Director Gary Wandel said at the same meeting the board and administrators had been "working very diligently since the previous year to get a program."

Wandel moved to give the superintendent permission to pursue a program if approached. The board passed the motion.

Stern said it would cost $60,000 annually, for half the cost of two instructors. One instructor will be a retired officer and the other a retired noncommissioned officer. The school would also need two classrooms dedicated to the program and storage for 100 uniforms and equipment.

Stern said she had sent e-mails to Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Toomey and U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-12th District, asking if Connellsville could get a program when one becomes available.

"I want to see everything possible to get that program," Wandel said at the meeting.

"We're elated, absolutely elated about this," Wandel said after finding out that Connellsville could get a program soon. "The board is 100 percent behind this. It's still in process, but it's getting closer."

Wandel believes a JROTC program will be an invaluable contribution to the high school.

"So many of our students do go into the military. Our community is very supportive of the military. Our community is very patriotic," he said. "With the rising cost of college tuition, this will help with getting an education."

JROTC cadets can earn college credits while in the program and, after graduation, can earn scholarships.

Whether or not Connellsville graduates join the military after JROTC, Wandel said they will carry its lessons for life. "They will learn leadership and responsibility. It's about teaching them to be the leaders of tomorrow."

According to the Army JROTC website, the corps began with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916. Originally, six high schools enrolled; now more than 1,645 have a corps, with more than 286,000 cadets and 4,000 instructors.

Title 10 of the U.S. Code declares that "the purpose of Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps is to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment."

The study of ethics, citizenship, communications, leadership, life skills and other subjects designed to prepare young men and woman to take their place in adult society, evolved as the core of the program. Recently, an improved student-centered curriculum focusing on character building and civic responsibility is presented in every JROTC classroom.

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