Drill team competitions, placing wreaths on veterans' graves, leadership training: all lessons Christian said have shaped him into a strong teen—and citizen.
The JROTC program will be phased out of District 210's offerings, the latest in a string of program eliminations and reductions brought about by financial woes at the district and state level.
"We're trying to find expenditures (to cut) that will be least disruptive (to the district," said Community Relations Director Stacy Holland.
The 403 students districtwide currently participating will be allowed to stay in through graduation—incoming members of the class of 2018 will not be allowed to enroll.
For May, that means Christian (a junior and her last of three children to go through District 210) will enjoy a full four years with the JROTC. But she's furious that future students won't benefit.
"It builds character, and fosters students who give back to the community," May said. "It's just a really worthwhile program. Why this program?
"There have to be some other options."
WHY JROTC?The program is not the first to be cut, and it certainly will not be the last.
As budget woes have grown, the district has been slashing programs and classes for the last five years, Holland said. Others eliminated include zero hour, writing and math labs and building trades classes.
The elimination of the building trades class was due largely in part to a stall in the local housing market, Holland said. With no new homes being built, students' interest in the trades petered out. The district also looks at students' class selections as a means of determining courses' importance to the curriculum. Administrators consider student-to-teacher ratio, and the cost to run a program or class.
For JROTC—a $500,000 program with an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio—the decision became clear over several years, Holland said. (For comparison, most other classes have a student-to-teacher ratio of 26:1.)
It appears the district is not alone in cutting the JROTC program—just 16 remain in Illinois high schools—four of which are those at Lincoln-way schools, she said. In the immediate future, the current program will be limited to only two of the four District 210 schools. Students still involved will be bused to Lincoln-way Central for JROTC activities, which is standard with many programs, Holland said.
The district next will take a close look at course selections by sophomores through seniors. Freshmen will pick theirs Feb. 11–12, and administration will take those numbers into account, as well.
The numbers weren't in JROTC's favor, Holland said.
"Because this is a high expenditure program, we've looked at reducing or eliminating it for the last couple of years," she said.
Parents of students involved aren't ready to see the program fade away, and neither are the students.
The activities create a bond and environment unlike any other organization, Christian said. The program has taught him leadership and developed his character.
"We can really just be ourselves," he said. "And most importantly, it teaches you about citizenship in America.
"We're really just like one giant family."
May hopes other parents disappointed in the program's discontinuation will come together and attempt to change administration's mind. May is invested in the program, even though she won't have any more children go through it.
Christian is grateful he'll get to finish out his high school career as part of a program that means so much to him.
He also intends to join ROTC in college.