After NJROTC program sent packing, similar program offers new hope

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Abbeville, AL (WSFA) - After a vote for a new 3 mil tax in Henry County failed, the school system was forced to cancel its Navy JROTC program due to a lack in funding.

But now, a new, similar program could become available, and it comes at no cost to the school system.

For current JROTC students, it's an option, but to school leaders, it's a solution.

Henry County School Superintendent Dennis Coe said, "We'd like to keep some sort of military flavor in our school environment."

Current JROTC student Zanetta Horn said, "I like the Navy stuff.  My father was in the Navy, so it's a great opportunity for me."

That new opportunity is called Sea Cadets.

It's also Navy based, and like JROTC, it includes drills, competitions, and leadership advancement.

Lt. Michael Hearn, Commanding Officer for the Wiregrass division of Sea Cadets said, "It includes Navy history, rank and structure, and basically the same stuff the Navy goes over in the first couple years of training."

Sea Cadets is strictly extracurricular, meaning it's not paid for by the school system, like the JROTC program.

Coe said, " If you break it down, what we are currently paying as a board, is more than $3,000 per student."

The Sea Cadet program costs around $250 per student, 1/6 of the cost of the Navy JROTC program, but that cost would be absorbed by the parents and students in the program. And that's causing some concern.

Abbeville High Freshman, and current JROTC student Hunter Watford said, "Some people can't pay as much as others, and for a lot of people, that $250 is a lot of money."

Chelsea Crawford, also a JROTC student, and Commanding Officer among students said, "I'm not going to join Sea Cadets. I've gone so far in JROTC, and I've done so much that Sea Cadets couldn't really compare."

School leaders say Sea Cadets isn't meant to replace the JROTC program, just to provide an alternative.

Coe said, "These kids may not be the star athletes, or the cheerleaders, or the band members, but they have a niche in the JROTC program that they feel a part of."

The Superintendent presented the program to the school board Thursday night, and asked the board could sponsor children who weren't able to pay.

He says, he'll give members time to think it over before he calls for a vote.

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