JROTC students march in event

LUMBERTON — A new extracurricular opportunity is coming to upperclassmen at PSRC Early College High School at Robeson Community College in the fall.

For the first time, juniors, seniors, and advanced seniors at PSRC ECHS will have the opportunity to take part in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, which is offered at all traditional high schools in the district. Students will take JROTC in the 4th-period block of the school day and will join other JROTC cadets in the program at Lumberton High School. Transportation will be provided.

A recruiting event will take place on Feb. 27 at Building 15 at Robeson Community College during a schoolwide assembly, according to Dr. Anthony Barton, principal at PSRC ECHS.

“This removes a barrier and/or a missed opportunity that students at ECHS have had to forgo simply for choosing to come to ECHS,” Barton said. “While ECHS is not a traditional school, this is another way that we can allow our students to experience some of the tenets of our traditional high schools.”

Barton said students will then be able to participate in both athletics and JROTC programs while enrolled in the Early College program.

The principal was inspired to implement the program from watching how the JROTC program has left a positive impact on his daughter.

He also took note of how Hoke County Schools’ Sandhoke Early College JROTC program was structured, and with the approval of PSRC Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson and collaboration with Lumberton High School JROTC Instructor Col. Mondrey McLaurin, the district received the green light to implement a similar structure. 

“Our purpose is to provide Early College students with some of the same school elective opportunities that are offered in a traditional high school,” said Col. McLaurin. “We want to help young students find great success in a variety of extracurricular school activities.”

And the job is personal for McLaurin, a Maxton native who knows firsthand the impact that JROTC can have on students.

“I am a proud product of both High School JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) and College ROTC,” McLaurin said.

McLaurin was once a student in the Scotland County school system who participated in the JROTC program. That program helped shape his path which led him into military service and then into the role of a JROTC instructor.

“Each program provided me with the skills and guidance that were extremely instrumental in shaping the 30 years of my military career, character, and personal principles,” he said. “For these reasons, I wish to share my story and instill the same services and standards that were taught to me to our high school cadets, students and future leaders.”

The program allows high school JROTC cadets to sharpen their public speaking and leadership skills, participate in JROTC sports (color guard, drill, raiders and rifle), use JROTC to help pay for college, and start at a higher pay grade in the military, he said.

There are no military obligations for JROTC cadets, he said. Even if students choose other career paths, they can apply skills learned through the program.

“There are three core values the cadet will learn, which include leadership, character and community service,” he said. “Those values are at the heart of the JROTC Cadet Creed which emphasizes working to better the cadet's family, school, and country.”

Most JROTC cadets are currently participating in the Army JROTC Leadership Academic Bowl.

Four of the five PSRC high school JROTC programs qualified to compete in the Level II Academic Bowl (Fairmont, Lumberton, Purnell Swett, and St. Pauls) and three of the five programs (Fairmont, Lumberton and St. Pauls) have advanced in the Leadership Bowl Level II for the 2022-2023 Army JROTC JLAB (JROTC Leadership Academic Bowl). 

The Teams’ next competitions are taking place until Feb. 15.  If any of the Teams advance to Level III they will travel to Washington D.C. for the Championship level. After Feb. 15, Cadet Command will announce the winners of Level II.

In the summer, cadets also have the opportunity to participate in JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenges (JCLC) which is a week-long camp. They can also participate in events such as STEM and drone camps.

Barton is appreciative of the collaborative effort and support of the superintendent in the process of extending the program to PSRC ECHS students, the principal said.

“I am so thankful that we can bring this opportunity to the students at ECHS,” he said.