Monday, September 20, 1999

ROTC marches into Silver Grove

Junior group earns points

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SILVER GROVE — Stop by Silver Grove School early in the morning or at the end of the day and you'll likely see a group of 18 students, dressed in fatigues and black boots, marching along Third Avenue.

        The group practices drills and formations, following commands from Kentucky National Guard Sgt. David Owens, a special-education teacher at the school.

        The students choose to come early and stay late as members of a new Junior ROTC program aimed at improving leadership, discipline and respect.

        “My mom was in the military too, and I wanted to learn about it also,” seventh-grader Sarah Brake said.

        “But we're still trying to break our boots in.”

        Just after 8 a.m. Friday, ROTC members trotted around the building with member Marc Iles keeping pace in his wheelchair. Sgt. Owens shouted and chanted and the students repeated in unison:

        Here we go again.

        Same old stuff again.

        Marching down the avenue.

        Ten more minutes and we'll be through.

        I'll be glad and so will you.

        Am I right or am I wrong?

        Are we weak or are we strong?


        The Junior ROTC club motto is “strength through education” and Sgt. Owens is certainly building character — and muscle — in his charges.

        Students conduct a safety patrol each morning at school, escorting students and parents from their cars to the building.

        They are responsible for their actions and those of the other ROTC members. They gain or lose points based on completing schoolwork, attendance and grades.

        Teachers said they notice a difference in the students.

        “They salute me now and call me ma'am,” science teacher Diana Brown said. “That's never happened before.”

        Students are also more respectful of one another, social studies teacher Marc Bibee said. He said assignments are being turned in on time and students not in the ROTC program are modeling the behaviors of their peers.

        “I've never heard so many "yes, sirs' in my life,” Mr. Bibee said.

        Sgt. Owens said he started Junior ROTC as a way to develop integrity, improve self-esteem, introduce students to military science and build school morale and pride.

        “This is a volunteer program, designed to shape be havior,” Sgt. Owens said.

        For Mark Iles, who completes the drills and safety patrol from his wheelchair, Junior ROTC means being a part of a group. “It helps me feel more like the other kids.”

        Tenth-grader Shawn Mahoney learned a lesson the hard way this week. He was cited for having long hair. Now his locks are restricted to a crew cut. He lost points for the unruly hair and for not wearing his BDU, or battle dress uniform.

        “My grandpa washed it, but he forgot to put it in the dryer,” Shawn said as he watched ROTC members march.

        “I'll have to earn the points back.”

        Silver Grove's Junior ROTC members officially will be sworn in by Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery at 6 p.m. Monday during a school board meeting.


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