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It’s the first year of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Lebanon High School.
With less than a month to go in the 2022-23 academic year, the JROTC cadets finished their inaugural year as part of the nationwide youth leadership training program by organizing a military appreciation day at the school.
JROTC got first dibs at experiencing the event they organized, held Thursday, May 11, before opening it up to the entire school for the rest of the day. The event began just before 9 a.m. with the landing of a CH-47 Chinook, and teachers began bringing classes by at 10 a.m.
LebTown was there in the morning to admire the JROTC’s efforts and capture the visit of state Rep. John Schlegel, who also made an appearance.
Among the military units that took part in the event were Pennsylvania Army National Guard, United States Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, VFW Post 23, and Special Forces Association Chapter 64.
Senior Army Instructor of the LHS JROTC program, Lt. Col. Mike Stefanchik, said that the event was a great success.
Lt. Col. Stefanchik said that 23 cadets overall were involved in planning the event, but it was driven primarily by Ethan Rivera – an LHS freshman who Stefanchik said “really knocked it out of the park” – and Elis Bentez Jimenez. Planning for the event began in February, with students driving the lead on coordination with the principal and buildings & grounds crew (naturally some planning is involved to land a Chinook!).
Stefanchik said the JROTC program has 115 students this year, and that’s expected to increase next year to some 150 students.
“They’re already coming up with other ideas of stuff they want to do,” said Stefanchik.
He said the other military units that participated were glad to help.
“(The event) was good because it dovetails with our curriculum,” said Stefanchik. “One of the things we stress – Our program is not designed to recruit kids. Our program is designed to inspire kids to be better citizens.”
Stefanchik said that less than 10% of JROTC participants end up joining the military. The focus is on the “Three E’s” – enrolled in college, employed, or enlisted.
Stefanchik noted that the high school administration has been exceptionally supportive of the JROTC program, which he said focuses on project-based learning.
“Draw upon what they’re learning in class and apply it to something larger so it provides relevance for them,” explained Stefanchik. “Certainly the case for this project – got to pull a lot of things they learned about leadership, teamwork, planning, and communication.”
The event was visited by 15 classes throughout the day, or northwards of 400 students – about one-third of the LHS student body.
As for what the JRTOC cadets will plan next year, that remains to be seen.
“They’re already chomping at the bit,” said Stefanchik.
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Editor’s note: This article was updated after publication with additional comments by Lt. Col. Mike Stefanchik.