USD 232 may enlist in Junior ROTC program
Some De Soto High School students could find themselves suiting up for a new program next school year - Junior ROTC.
Capt. Daniel Kalson, of the 9th Marine Corps District, Kansas City, Mo., recently approached Superintendent Marilyn Layman about bringing the program to the district. Layman discussed the possibility with the school board last month.
"For many students, this could be a good way for them to fit in," Layman said.
Kalson said De Soto would need to complete the application by the end of November to receive acceptance in December.
School board member Sandy Thierer said at the last meeting that she would support the program.
"The program can provide a venue for students to become a member of a team," she said. "I can see this helping with career opportunities for those interested in the military as well."
Kalson will speak to the De Soto school board about the possibility of a Junior ROTC program at De Soto High School during the school board meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at the district administration building.
Kalson said there are many advantages to the program.
"Cadets develop a much higher self esteem and are more disciplined," Kalson said. "The skills they learn are helpful regardless of what they want to do after they graduate."
Should De Soto start the program, it would be the second high school in the state to offer Junior ROTC. Topeka High School first introduced the program in 1995 and has become one the best programs in the nation.
The Topeka High Jr. ROTC has been named 2001 National Drill Champions. With almost 250 schools across the nation competing, the team's feat was no easy task.
The Topeka High program, led by Major Bob Funk and Chief Warrant Officer Kurt Kelley, has 144 cadets ranging from freshmen to seniors and includes men and women.
Kelley said the cadets' average day begins at 5:50 a.m., when they meet for drills and ceremonies. The cadets have breakfast from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. before heading to the classroom from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The cadet's day might not end with the school day's final bell. They often rush to parades, ceremonies and events to display their talents for the remainder of the evening.
Cadet Elizabeth Bentley is in her fourth year of the program. She said she reluctantly joined before her freshman year of high school, but now said she has no regrets.
"It's a lot of hard work getting up early for events," Bentley said. "But I've become more respectable and learned how to work with people to get jobs done."
Kelley said getting the ROTC program started at Topeka High was no easy task.
"Many people are scared at first, so they're reluctant to join," he said. "But once they do, they usually love it."
And Kelley said he enjoys witnessing the success of the students.
"The results are just amazing, he said. "Not everyone does well, but the ones who are usually forced to enter the program by their parents end up doing the best because they realize it's not so bad."
Kelley said with hard work from the students and instructors, De Soto could achieve the same successes.
Kalson said the process of matching a Junior ROTC program to a school is extensive. He said he first sends out packets of information to various states to determine interest. An application filled out by the superintendent and principal of the school is required. After that he performs a site survey or inspection of the facilities to determine if they can support such a program.
If the application is approved, the school receives several thousand dollars to begin the program. Some of the costs involved include hiring instructors, the cost of uniforms and traveling expenses.