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School may be out for the summer, but the studying hasn’t stopped for hundreds of JROTC Cadets in preparation for the Junior Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB) held this week in Washington D.C.
“We’ve studied all night some days, and we’ve definitely put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this,” said Stephanie Shen, a rising senior from Francis Lewis High School. “Well, not blood, but definitely a lot of hard work.”
For over 200 high school JROTC students, more than a year of studying and competing converges into the two JLAB events – the Army JROTC Leadership Bowl taking place June 19-22 and the All-Service JROTC Academic Bowl taking place June 24-27.
Out of 3,500 high schools taking part in the competitions, the top 40 Army JROTC programs and the top 48 all-service JROTC programs travel to Washington D.C. to display their leadership and academic skills on a national level.
“In Junior ROTC, we teach leadership in the classroom, but what they really get out of it is the co-curricular events…this [competition] is another niche for the kids that really enjoy the leadership portion and academics,” said Lt. Col. Casey Geist, director of Army JROTC. “We can tell everybody how to be a leader while in the classroom, but this is the chance to actually get out, practice what they’re doing, get feedback, and learn to develop those social-emotional learning skills with other students – how to lead teams and be effective.”
The competition kicks off with the Army JROTC Leadership Bowl, where Cadets experience situations that encourage thinking outside of the box to communicate and problem-solve as a team.
Master Sgt. (Ret.) Marchantia Johnson is an instructor at Theodore Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, Texas. She works with her Cadets all year in preparation for this event. It’s not something that can be absorbed overnight.
“It’s a lot of bookwork, a lot of studying, and a lot of teaching them how to work as a team” she said.
“All year they’re learning JROTC knowledge, and then they’re challenged with that information when they come here,” Johnson adds. “The kids have to work together. It showcases their leadership, it showcases their teamwork and their ability to be able to communicate with each other to get a task completed.”
With nearly a year of studying and preparing for this moment, the Cadets are ready to flex the skills they’ve been honing and developing since the fall.
“It’s important to show our teamwork, not just the intelligence of Cadets, but showing how we can work together and use our leadership to influence others,” said Priscilla Yao, a rising junior from Francis Lewis High School.
“We’ve been preparing for this competition the entire year, and now we’re here and we’re so glad we got here,” she added.
For many Cadets, the excitement of the competition is compounded with being away from home (many for the first time) and their parents.
A few teams have even crossed an ocean for the opportunity to compete.
“We definitely don’t get a lot of trips like this, so it’s kind of exciting,” said Yannic Miranda, a rising senior from Ansbach Middle High School in Ansbach, Germany.
Even though their team is small – only three people – Miranda and his teammate Alexander Pohlman, a junior, both feel prepared for the competition thanks, in large part, to their character development in JROTC throughout the year.
“JROTC is really about putting yourself outside the box and really growing yourself,” said Pohlman. “You show yourself off as a good leader and become confident in informing other people and helping them out.”
JROTC is one of the largest character development and citizenship programs for youth in the world. The programs are run by retired service members, hired by the individual school districts, to teach a curriculum that offers challenging academic content and real-life experiences to help students develop a sense of personal responsibility as they move throughout the different stages of life.
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.