On June 24, 2018, 362 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets, along with 71 JROTC instructors, from 36 high schools in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina converged upon Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University at Blacksburg, Virginia for a 6-day summer camp.
During this period all of the cadets participated in adventure training activities which consisted of rappelling off of a twenty-foot or forty-foot tower, undergoing drownproofing lessons, navigating an obstacle course, learning the basics of air rifle safety and familiarization, and a few other adventurous training activities. In addition to these activities, the cadets also received classroom instruction and hands-on practice in various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) areas. These areas included computer coding, developing assists for the elderly, engineering a solution to a real-world challenge, and investigating how diseases spread and the methods that can be used for their diagnosis.
Additionally, these cadets received information on how to apply to college, what to look for in a college, and what to expect in college experiences. These classes, as well as those mentioned above, were spearheaded by Virginia Tech faculty and staff, who volunteered their own time, along with several high school teachers, to provide this educational experience for these young high school students who were tasked to develop design projects during their stay. This was also a leadership camp where cadet leadership positions were changed each day in order to provide leadership training and experience to as many cadets as possible. Being militarily-oriented, the cadets marched in formation wherever they went. During their 6 days at Virginia Tech the cadets marched approximately 50 - 60 miles. This was a lot of marching and an accomplishment in itself.
This mixed adventure training and STEM project camp was the first of its kind, designed to increase awareness and interest in STEM career opportunities and foster academic competencies in specific STEM fields. It served to provide educational empowerment by cultivating student attitudes, aspirations and behaviors to embrace change and innovation with assertiveness and conviction along with the adventure training for an added twist.
The Fourth Brigade of the U.S. Army Cadet Command sponsored this camp with assistance from the Virginia Tech Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity and 360 Cradle to Careers (a nonprofit organization). The cadets were housed in one of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets dormitories and ate their meals at the dining facility on campus. Undoubtedly, if you ask most cadets they will tell you that the food court-style dining facility was one of the best, if not the best experience they had while there. While most of the events took place on campus, Historic Smithfield Plantation, located nearby, provided the site for several of the outdoor activities. The camp culminated on Friday, June 29 when the cadets took turns displaying and explaining the various projects they undertook during the course of that week. This project display was< open to the public and various school districts had representatives who attended. These displays were impressive and some of the comments from the cadets were that they wished they had more time to further develop their ideas and they some planned to take what they had learned and further their research/study when they returned to school.
Cadets challenge themselves to achieve higher standards. Throughout the camp cadets are evaluated on leadership ability and potential to lead. The top cadets from each element at camp are selected to go before a board of Sergeant Majors. During this interview style presentation, cadets are scored on their knowledge of leadership, current events, politics, military rank and unit structure, poise, confidence, and audible presentation. Cadet William Franklin from Rappahannock High School, came out on top, and won the (Best Cadet) award. Cadet Franklin is a rising LET 4. When asked about his experience in JROTC he stated “I love being in JROTC because of what it teaches us”. Cadet Franklin plans to attend a military academy after high school and join the service as a commissioned officer. We congratulate cadet Franklin for this achievement.