High School JROTC Participants Share Pros, Cons of Involvement News2america

The decision to join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in high school was simple for Wilfredo Figueroa-Rivera, now 18.

He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a longtime member of the Army.

Figueroa-Rivera is now a student at the University of Kansas, where he is a part of ROTC, a similar program for college students. But high school junior ROTC programs, which teach character development and are facilitated by the military, aren’t just for students interested in joining the armed services.

That’s something Figueroa-Rivera learned while participating in the program, first as a high schooler in Germany and then at Leavenworth High School in Kansas.

“It’s for people who want to better themselves academically and physically,” he says. The purpose of junior ROTC, he says, is to make better citizens for the future. 

There is no military obligation for participants of junior ROTC. 

But while the decision to participate in junior ROTC was easy for Figueroa-Rivera, it might not be for other teens. Former and current junior ROTC members gave U.S. News their thoughts on the pros and cons of the program, to help students decide if it is right for them.

Pro: Teens can build their confidence and leadership skills in JROTC. When Michael Fricchione was growing up, he didn’t have a lot of confidence and was really shy, the now 28-year-old says. But he thinks participating in junior ROTC while a student at Xavier High School in New York City helped him come out of his shell a little bit.

He didn’t serve in the military after high school, but Fricchione says he gained confidence and leadership experience in the program.

“I think it has helped me just by the fact that right now I have to tell people what to do,” he says of his job in public relations. “I have to be responsible for other people’s morale and how other people function in the workplace.”

Con: Students may have to adhere to the program’s appearance requirements. While junior ROTC is not a military preparation class, the program does have a strong military influence. Participants regularly have to wear a uniform – once a week or twice a month, in some programs – and may have to adhere to appearance standards.

That means boys may have to get a haircut, says Figueroa-Rivera. He says this rule varies – the Germany program he participated in did require students to do so, while the Kansas program did not.

The uniform, however, offered him a sense of pride, he says, because wearing it made him feel like he was part of something bigger than himself.

Pro: JROTC participants may find a ready-made friend group. Kira Schmale, 17, a senior at Owen J. Roberts High School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, has participated in her school’s military-themed program for the past four years, she said via email.

“You become one big family,” she said. “Everyone looks out for each other and helps each other grow.”

One Twitter user told U.S. News she enjoyed the team atmosphere.

Con: JROTC can be physically demanding. Participants should be prepared to be active, as physical fitness training, known as PT, is typically an element of junior ROTC. 

“There will be some kind of physical activity because it is a military program after all,” said Schmale.

Students still trying to decide if junior ROTC is right for them should keep the following in mind. 

Figueroa-Rivera says the only way teens will know if junior ROTC is right for them is if they give it a try.

And if they don’t like it, they can always leave the program, he says.

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