This past week, 11 cadets from Clemente’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) joined approximately 500 other Cadets from Chicago, Waukegan, and Wisconsin for a five-day JCLC adventure at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin. JROTC is not a recruiting tool for the military but uses a military methodology to develop students’ leadership skills. Upon arrival at St. John’s, all cadets were divided into groups, numbering about 50 in each company; immediately afterward they were issued their individual equipment and bedding. Cadet Leaders for each company were selected at random, thus began the process of building a cohesive unit based on mutual respect.
During the course, students’ teamwork, motivation, self-confidence, and respect for authority and peers were put to the test each day as they both led and participated in a series of rigorous activities. Days began at 5:30 AM with a wakeup call and personal hygiene. From 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM, various forms of cadet-led physical fitness training were conducted; in addition to the standard push-ups, sit-ups and running, training activities included swimming, grass drills, and an obstacle course. Between 7:00 AM and 8:30 AM, cadets had a multitude of tasks to complete as a team: personal hygiene, making their beds, cleaning their rooms and common areas, and eating breakfast. Promptly at 8:30 AM, the cadets marched to one of six training sites, three of which were completed before lunch.
Each training site emphasized leadership, teamwork, following instructions, and individual and group motivation. Overcoming the fear of the unknown and fear of failure was a great accomplishment for several cadets, as they faced some of these fears during challenging tasks. The six training sites were: 1. the Rappel Tower and rock wall, where students overcame their fear of heights by descending down a 50-foot wall and attempting to climb to the top of the rock wall; 2. Land Navigation, during which students had to work together as a team using a map and compass to find markers in the forest; 3. Leadership Reaction Course, where each student had the opportunity to lead a small group who must work together to complete a variety of complex tasks; 4. Water survival, where students learned water safety, worked as a team to construct a raft and paddled their raft around a buoys to complete the course; 5. Archery class, during which students learned the fundamentals of archery, sportsmanship, and competed for the top score; 6. RECONDO, where students in groups of five were tasked with motivating each other and using teamwork to complete an obstacle course. Our cadets braved each of these challenges and succeeded in conquering fears and building lifelong skills, not to mention they had fun doing it!
With early morning chores, challenging workouts, and intense training completed in just the first half of the day, everyone looked forward to the next meal. Lunch began at noon and once it ended at 1:00 PM, the cadets were back on their feet and marching to a different training site for the afternoon sessions. Training sites could sometimes be up to a mile and a half away from one another. During these marches, cadets sang cadences emphasizing their motivation, unity, and pride in each of their Companies. Every aspect of the cadet, team, and company were evaluated daily and points were awarded in order to determine which would be the “Honor Company” at the end of training. After completion of the afternoon training sessions, the cadets ate dinner from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. However, their day was not over after dinner. Sport competitions began sharply at 6:30 PM and wrapped up at 8:30 PM. To ensure all cadets participated equally, multiple events were held simultaneously. These events ranged from water polo, volleyball and kickball to track and field and basketball. Each company was awarded points for wins, and had their performance evaluated for loses and ties in order to determine the top “Sports Company”.
After three days of physically and mentally demanding training, the time came for graduation. Awards and recognition were presented to the Honor Company and the top three Sports Companies, as well as top individual male and female cadets from each training site. Other awards were also presented for overall top male and female leadership. Once the formal ceremony was completed, the cadets were able to relax and enjoy a BBQ. At JCLC, hundreds of strangers from different schools met for the first time and after just four days, new friendships bridged their differences and life-long bonds were formed. Attending JCLC this year from Clemente was: Amari Rois, Batavia Harris, Jair Gilmore, Jasmine Bealer, Serenity Ramirez, Matthew Santiago, Savannah Vanegas, Lolito Lindsey, Ana Rojas, Paula Perez and Jamilet Garcia.
We are incredibly proud of our cadets; they demonstrated courage, leadership, and several of the character traits that they learned in JROTC throughout the school year. We congratulate all of them and look forward to them training and mentoring next year’s group of cadets for this incredible experience!