Nearly 250 students from ten high schools converged on Whitley County High School’s campus Saturday to compete in a daylong competition. What may have been more valuable than the trophies awarded to the winners was the experience students gained planning and running the event.
“I really learned a lot from this; our cadre really put the ball in our court to plan and run the event. I felt like a CEO,” laughed Gary Moul a senior at Whitley County.
“We provide students left and right limits. We give them tools but hold them responsible for doing the work; this way, they learn what it takes to succeed. We tell them the event will succeed or fail based on what they do,” explained Colonel (Retired) Steve Sears who along with Master Sergeant (Retired) Donald Gross runs Whitley’s JROTC program.
Whitley County has over 120 students in their JROTC program. Thirty students volunteered weeks ago to plan and run the competition. Cadets were in charge of each of the eight events; a cadet served as a guide for each of the ten participating teams, several cadets were responsible for logistics, and a handful of cadets served in a command post to track scores, manage rotations, and serve a clearing house for problems encountered during the day.
“How many 16-year-olds get the opportunity to take charge of an event like this? From providing drinking water to briefing the event rules to organizing the awards ceremony, we had to figure it out and solve problems. We had to make sure everyone knew the plan, prepared, and delivered,” stated Naythan Jewell a member of Whitley’s JROTC.
At the end of a long day, trophies were awarded to schools placing in each event, but the thirty cadets running the event took away an authentic experience in problem-solving and in leadership.