FRANKFORD, Del. - At the Indian River High School, approximately 60 students are engaged in JROTC programs, a number that is below the required amount by the US Marine Corps. For that reason, the program is in jeopardy of losing its stripes, and so the school is looking to increase recruitment efforts by this October.
The U.S. Marine Corps requires that a school has either 100 students enrolled in the program or 10 percent of the total school population. With a population of approximately 850 students, Indian River would need 85 members of JROTC.
Senior John Wharton said it would be emotional if the program were shutdown.
"This program has been my whole life my last four years," he said. "I stepped foot in this program my freshman year. And I step out on May 20th this year. And I put my full force and effort into this program. And if it fails, I feel like I failed myself."
The program is currently picking up recruitment efforts, in an attempt to get more people to join. If the school fails to do so, it can convert the unit to a "National Defense Cadet Corps."
The main difference between a Cadet Corps and the JROTC is funding. With the Cadet Crops, the school district would cover all of the instructor salaries, rather than just half, as they do now. Principal Bennett Murray said this would likely mean that one of the two instructors would be let go. Murray said this would be harmful to the program.
"You almost need that second person to juggle all the different activities," he said. "As well as the instructional leadership that goes on in the classroom itself."
ROTC Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Lester James said that part of the recruitment process would be to dispel the "common misconception" that this program is just for those looking to join the military.
"We go beyond teaching them how to wear a uniform and how to march," he said. "And how to stand at attention. All of those things are important. But we teach kids that when you go to a job interview to look that person in the face. And a firm handshake. And the proper language. 'Yes sir,' 'no sir,' 'thank you.' Those are the things that we teach here that a lot of people don't really see."
One interesting focus of the recruitment process will be with the number of girls in the program. In 1998, when the program began, there were 30 girls and 35 boys. This year there are just five girls, compared to 54 boys.