WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – There’s a special program at Washington High School in Beaufort County that’s shaping students.
It’s the JROTC program.
“I decided I wanted to try it because why not?” said Sary Acosta, a Washington High sophomore. “It was a really good option because it teaches you a lot that you’ll use in the future.”
“They have taught me discipline, honor, integrity, how to respect others, how to better yourself and how make you a better human being,” said Justin McLean, a WHS senior.
Training students to become better human beings is happening for hundreds of students in the program, and it’s starting with two veterans.
“I appreciate what I’m doing and getting an opportunity to be something to these kids,” said 1st Sgt. Robert Bennett, who is an instructor for the program.
“Developing leaders all along the way with those skills where they can utilize their brains and utilize their minds in a way that develops that sense of how to make a decision,” said Col. Jorge Bocanegra, who is also the program instructor. “That’s how we build them, and they come out as leaders in the community.”
Bocanegra and Bennett said they both had leaders who taught them first.
“My mentor in high school was a veteran and he pushed me very similar to the way I’m pushing these kids,” Bennett said.
Now they’re teaching the cadet corps military training.
“All the basic skills, the marching skills, any cadet that goes through basic training, will have to go through that they have to learn to march, they have to learn how to present the flag,” Bocanegra said. “I am looking at a future soldier, a seaman, airmen, Marine.”
Because some students plan to follow in their footsteps.
“I actually plan on going active and joining the military as U.S. army,” McLean said. “It helps me with knowledge. When we do right face, left face and our drill stuff, that’s the same stuff as the army.”
It’s also for students with other plans.
“I wanna be a lawyer so I want to get into law school,” Acosta said. “I’m really a disciplined person, and I think education is really important for your life.”
“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a young lady come back here, stand in front of my students and go, ‘Hey, I’m a lawyer now,'” Bocanegra said. “And I have other kids that say, ‘Hey, I joined the Army. Here I am. Look at me now.’ It’s great, and it’s nice to have at least one little bit in that.”
At the end of each school day, they’re proud to have served their country for many years, but also proud to be motivating future generations of American heroes.
“You just see them build the relationships of that family unit,” Bennett said. “That’s how you build the program up to where it’s at today, and it just makes me proud.”