The U.S. Air force Junior ROTC was recently named the West Virginia 20021 Air Force Junior ROTC program School as a Distinguished Unit with Merit, recognizing it as one of the top programs in the nation.
Being recognized as a distinguished unit with merit is impressive enough in its own right, but being named for this honor 11 times in a row is more remarkable.
According to Master Sergeant Will Poe, there are 873 Air Force Junior ROTC programs competing, nationally, for this honor this year.
"To earn the distinguished unit award every year since the inception of the program at Jefferson High School is amazing when you consider the competition," said Master Sgt. Poe.
Major Phil Sudan, the senior aerospace science instructor added, "Earning it every year speaks volumes about the hard work of the 177 cadets and their parents, support of the school administrators and board of education, and fellow faculty. The entire community owns part of this honor."
The criteria for competing for this award is based on goals developed jointly among the cadets, instructors, and school administrators. Those goals are designed to positively impact on the cadets, the school, and the local community. Once the goals are in place, the cadets work throughout the year to develop activities and complete them that support goal accomplishment.
To add the "with Merit" designation, the cadets and teachers had to score an "Exceeds Standards" in an inspection by headquarters AFJROTC that is much like an accreditation visit. The cadets and teachers were found to run a "flawless" program in complete compliance with Air Force and school criteria.
"We've developed good goals and solid programs to support these goals. I think that is our key to success, explained Master Sgt. Stephanie Poe, the third member of the teaching team. "For example, we expect 100 percent of our seniors to graduate and continue with their education. This year, all of our seniors are continuing their education, having earned more than $1 million in scholarship offers so far. Two have earned appointments to the United States Naval Academy. More importantly, one cadet is the first in her family to go to college."
Another key to success is allowing our cadets to lead. They come up with activities they want to do that support the goals," Master Sgt. Stephanie Poe continued.
She also provided this list of accomplishments the cadets have achieved: 48 percent of the 177 cadets are on the A-B honor roll through three quarters of the school year; 87 percent of cadets are involved as leaders or members of almost every extra-curricular activity on and off campus; improving their physical fitness by an average of 9 percent, to prevent obesity; providing more than 2,900 hours of community service; raising more than $5,100 for the Jefferson County Shoe and Coat fund to help keep school children warm; and running three Red Cross blood drives, collecting blood to help nearly 500 patients and earning recognition from the Red Cross Allegheny Region for the most improved blood drive program
Cadet Colonel Kim Smith, outgoing cadet group commander, provided the key to the cadets' record of accomplishment that stretches more than a decade: "The teachers insist on us doing things right. We've learned that when you do the right things, the right, every day, success follows because you have a habit of excellence."
"As seniors prepare to graduate, we know we have big shoes to fill," added the in-coming cadet group commander, Colonel Jessica Ballard, a junior. "But, we've learned the lessns Kim talked about, so I'm confident we'll continue to meet and exceed the standards that have been set by all the cadets who've come before us."