By Mary O’KEEFE
It has been a year of firsts for the Crescenta Valley High School JROTC – the first time they will compete in the Air Force National JROTC Drill Championship Series in Daytona, Florida, the first time the Junior Eagles Camp (an outreach project provided for Rosemont Middle School students) was held and (the cadets just recently found out) – it’s the first time the cadets have made it through the first two phases of competition in the Academic Bowl and will be going to the final competition in Washington, D.C.
“There were 255 teams at first. That was narrowed down to 155 and then, in the third round, down to the final eight,” said Sgt. Billie Smith, JROTC mentor, of the Academic Bowl.
The 2016 Air Force JROTC Academic Bowl Championship will be held in Washington, D.C. The eight remaining AF JROTC teams will be coming from around the nation.
During the two preliminary rounds, the students were tested on their knowledge of JROTC curriculum as well as English, math and science.
“The [Academic Bowl] is a competition, which tests a team of cadets on leadership and military information, and also on other academic information such as reading comprehension, grammar, science, math and current world affairs,” said Samuel Park, one of the Academic Bowl team members.
Park, with fellow juniors Yeren (Clara) Lee, Grace Kim and Sunghoon (Jerry) Jung, comprise the academic team. Park and Kim had competed last year and made it to the second round but no further. This year they went all the way to the top competitive field.
When they got the word they made it, the cadets at first couldn’t believe it.
“Then we were super excited,” Kim said.
The questions touched on subjects from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum as well as global current affairs.
“It’s like school,” Park said. “And since we are all preparing for SAT and ACT [tests] we were [already studying those areas].”
The team is composed of students from advanced placement calculus, science and biology classes.
“I think one thing we did differently this year was cooperate with each other,” Park said. “And an extra year of learning helped.”
“I think because we also have experience,” Kim said.
Even though they were prepared, it still was not easy.
“Some of the questions were tricky,” Lee said.
Now the team will prepare for the series final competition rounds in Washington, D.C. CV will face off against other teams from the Air Force JROTC. Then the winning team from the Air Force JROTC will compete against the winning teams from Army, Navy and Marine JROTC programs until one final, overall winner is named.
Not surprising, Lt. Col. Dave Worley, mentor, and Smith are beyond proud of their cadets. The team is bolstering each other now and looking for ways to give back after leaving the program, one reason the middle school program was started.
“We were brainstorming ideas of fundraising, recruitment and retainment … I wanted something that helped with all three,” said Peter Shin, co-founder of Junior Eagles Camp.
Shin and co-founders Helen Choi and Julie Ha came up with a three-day camp called Junior Eagles. It gave Rosemont Middle School kids a chance to try out JROTC before coming to CVHS.
“We thought it would be more effective if we just go and show them [our program] and let them experience it for themselves,” Shin said. “We developed this camp where our cadets would act as mentors.”
The camp goers learned the basics of ceremonies involving the American flag, including how to fold the flag, but one of the most exciting and popular things the kids got to do was to work with the flight simulator that is part of the JROTC program.
\The cadets hope this type of outreach will not only educate younger kids on what their program is about but also to increase JROTC membership.
“Our biggest [hurdle] we have is having more contact with our whole school and community. A lot of people, even here at school, don’t know what we do,” Choi said.
That notion will most likely change after two trips to national competitions.