NJROTC offers students discipline, drive

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Each school day, Cross Keys High School senior Nikol Diaz makes sure her grades, physical fitness and character are exemplary in the eyes of her peers and teachers.

This comes as second nature, Diaz said, as she is a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC).

“I wish I had joined earlier,” Diaz said. “It’s the highlight of my time in high school. It has improved my leadership skills and communication skills—I’m not shy anymore.”

NJROTC is a military-themed elective and afterschool program at high schools nationwide. The program emphasizes character development, citizenship, self-confidence, mental toughness and physical discipline for students by mirroring regimens in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines.

ROTC programs compete against one another through drill meets. At meets, students march in formation, have physical training competitions, color guard contests, rifle competitions and academic competitions. The program also offers opportunities for community service and time on military bases to experience the life of an enlisted person firsthand.

Diaz, a NJROTC member for two years, serves as a public affairs officer for Cross Keys’ program. She said she has always been interested in the Navy because of the opportunities it can afford later in life and hopes to enlist after graduating.

Diaz said it’s hard to relate what makes NJROTC a special program for her but credits other students—known as cadets—as well as her instructors, Laurence McPherson and William Davis.

“It’s the people you surround yourself with,” Diaz said. “We don’t leave anyone behind—if we see someone struggling or needing help with anything, there’s always someone there to motivate you. It’s not always in ROTC, but other things. If I’m having trouble, I know someone is there to help me out.”

Diaz said the program keeps her and fellow cadets focused on school. Her grades stay up because it is mandatory in ROTC—anyone below a certain threshold risks being booted from the program. Inadequate grades also prevent students from participating in competitions or field trips.

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“I’ve gotten a lot of perspective,” Diaz said. “The discipline has helped me a lot. Everyone in the NJROTC program and my platoon makes sure each other isn’t falling behind. We always ask everyone to keep their grades in check, keep practicing after school and stay motivated for community service. We make sure we all have a positive attitude.”

Each week in NJROTC is regimented in the way a life in the armed services may be, Diaz said. On Mondays, students practice drills. On Tuesdays, students discuss current events, study measurements for drills, ribbons, flag folding, color guard history and more. Wednesdays provide instructors time to inspect students to make sure they are on track. On Thursdays, students are tested on knowledge learned on Tuesdays, and Fridays provide a time for physical training.

Diaz is proud Cross Keys’ program won its first trophy in a long while at a competition held in Henry County on Sept. 9. She said the meet is a good jumping off point for Cross Keys’ current cadre of students.

“Our school has a lot to improve on, but we’re getting there,” Diaz said. “We have a strong unit. This year may be the year that we improve more than we ever have. We came in third place. It was a fun meet to start the year off and get things going.”

Events in November will include fundraisers, a Veteran’s Day parade with ROTC programs throughout DeKalb County School District, multiple physical fitness tests, a military ball and more competitions.

“I like to see other schools and what they do, what each person is doing,” Diaz said. “Other schools have more equipment and more space, but we’re doing good for what we have.”

For more information about Cross Keys High School’s NJROTC program, visit https://crosskeysnjrotc.weebly.com/contacts.html or contact Laurence McPherson or William Davis at laurence_mcpherson@dekalbschoolsga.org and WILLIAM_G_DAVIS@dekalbschoolsga.org, respectively.

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