Nearly three years after winning the battle for their program’s existence, Junior ROTC students at De Anza High cheered another victory last week after their 100-member unit passed their first official inspection.
The young Air Force ROTC program exceeded standards following a full day of observation by their visiting military superiors on Feb. 27. The result means the De Anza High program is now eligible for a Distinguished Unit standard when an inspection arises again in about three years, said Cadet Major Amy Baron.
“The inspector was so impressed that he awarded Major and Sergeant outstanding instructor awards,” Baron said.
The program’s success is especially sweet for participants given its struggles early on. Installing JROTC at De Anza High faced stern opposition from anti-military activists and some residents. After the program was approved by the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Board of Education, it still faced many challenges.
In its first year, the program lost two instructors. One instructor left in the very first week and another was forced to depart due to a medical problem. The program did not receive uniforms until May 2015, Baron added. But everything came together in the program’s second two years, leading to a stellar performance during last week’s inspection.
“Now we’re in our third year having passed our inspection and looking towards a bright future,” Baron said.
On inspection day, students, instructors and parents talked candidly and proudly about their program, saying they have proved opponents wrong about the merits of JROTC, which they say has helped them to develop new skills, discipline, to take on leadership roles and to serve their school and communities. The program helps participants fend off distractions at school and focus on classroom, community and their futures, according to participants.
“I would say most of the cadets put about 2-3 hours in a day, which includes the time they are in the class as part of their regular class schedule, and any co-curriculars the cadets are involved in, which usually take an hour or two during lunch or after school,” Baron said.
Among the co-curricular programs offered are Kitty Hawk Air Society, an Air Force JROTC academic honors program, and the Awareness Presentation Team, which has cadets educating their peers or community on various topics including social issues and health. The De Anza High program also offers co-curriculars in Color Guard and Armed and Unarmed Drill Team.
Andena Quintana, a volunteer parent whose son Joseph is a group commander, said the program’s success has touched her heart. Three years ago, she was impressed to see her son and his peers speak before the Board of Education meeting in defense of the program. Seeing them prove the program’s worth through hard work and dedication has been truly satisfying, she added.
“From a parent’s standpoint, coming from a protective mom, how dare people from outside our community tell us what to do, tell us what not to have,” Quintana said.