Families who are new to the idea of boarding school or military school might wonder what the value of an Air Force JROTC program is. How, they might wonder, does that fit into a college-prep program?
Oh so well.
Colleges are interested in academics, and at Randolph-Macon Academy, like so many military schools, academics come first. However, as Tracey Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, pointed out several years ago during a campus visit, it is important that students enter college with good character, that they have integrity and know the difference between right and wrong.
In the Air Force JROTC program, the students learn about those. They learn the Air Force core values:
- Integrity first.
- Service before self.
- Excellence in all we do.
Doing the right thing, regardless of what others think, is only possible if you have self-confidence –another trait developed through lessons in Air Force JROTC. Drill practices may seem tedious to students at times, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with leading a team of students correctly through the 30-count drill is what plants and even waters the seed of confidence.
Colleges also look for leaders, and Air Force JROTC offers students many opportunities to develop leadership skills and put them into practice, as students are put in charge of elements, flights, squadrons, and even a "group," which encompasses the entire student cadet corps. The lessons learned in Air Force JROTC are also applicable to the student's daily life–many R-MA students use what they learn in the Air Force JROTC classroom to develop their leadership skills on the athletic fields, as discussed in a recent podcast. Others use those skills to lead as class officers or in the dorms. It is expected throughout campus that every student will take on a leadership role, using campus as sort of a "leadership lab," in which the students can make leadership decisions in a safe environment. If they fail, they are given guidance and encouraged to try again.
In learning the concept of "Excellence in all we do," students learn to take pride in the small things, whether that is making their beds, shining their shoes, or doing their math homework. They learn the details matter, and that sometimes, the details are the first step to success, as Admiral William McRaven, US Navy, told the University of Texas at Austin graduates during his 2014 commencement address.
In addition to all of these benefits students gain, part of the Air Force JROTC curriculum provides opportunities for them to explore careers, colleges, and majors, and prepare a good chunk of their college application materials.
How does Air Force JROTC fit into a college prep program? Perfectly.