By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Grayson JROTC program popular among students
Funding is key to keeping this program at GHS

By Carole Townsend
Staff Correspondent

Grayson -  Jackson Williams is just 15 years old, a 9th grader at Grayson High School. But speak to this young man, and he just might fool you into thinking he’s much older.

He has drive, determination and goals that are surprising for a young man his age. That’s no accident.

gray rotc 190Jackson is a member of Junior ROTC at the high school, and he dreams of one day being able to attend the University of North Georgia, where the ROTC program is legendary. In order to do that, he will need exemplary grades and demonstrate the ability to successfully meet the rigorous demands of ROTC in college. He is on the right path; after only 1 year in the high school program, Jackson is passionate about serving his country in either the Marines or the Army.

“My grandfather was in the military, but he was retired before I was even born,” Jackson said.  Still, the 9th grader wanted to “really get a feel for what it’s like to be in the military,” so he chose to enter the JROTC program as soon as he entered high school.

Colonel Ron Rose is a commissioned officer, one of two JROTC instructors at GHS. The other instructor is a non-commissioned officer, First Sergeant Franklin Brown. “We’re partners, and we’re a team,” said Rose, adding that Brown served as an ROTC instructor at Georgia Tech, Cedar Shoals High School and Winder-Barrow High School. With children in GHS, Brown transferred to the school when they reached high school age. Together, the two men bring a disciplined, tough, but caring program to the Gwinnett County school.  

“187 students enrolled in JROTC  this year at Grayson, well above the number that we are required to teach in order to have this program at the school.” Rose said. The JROTC instructors teach the approved Army curriculum, but adhere to the same rules and policies that any other teacher does. The program at the high school level, according to Rose, is mainly designed to teach students a way of life that will help them succeed as adults, whether in the military or in the private sector.

gray rotc1 190The Colonel and First Sergeant made a commitment to the program, and they have no intention of abandoning it. But the fact is that it costs money to offer the program to students. There are 1700 Army JROTC programs in the United States which are federally funded and receive $20,000 annually.  Two hundred ninety schools across the nation are on the waiting list.  Grayson is one of only twelve schools in the United States that contracted with the Army to open a JROTC program funded entirely by the school and community.  Fundraising is a talent that almost every program at any school requires (think BAND and FOOTBALL programs, to name two), and parents and dedicated teachers are usually the ones who raise the funds.  Grayson JROTC is no different, and Rose said that several parents have stepped up to the plate to answer that call. Still, Grayson JROTC needs about $11,000 to sustain the program each year. 

“We have exhausted every source that we have for uniforms for these students, both boys and girls,” said Rose. “And every student in JROTC has to wear a uniform.” Some of the uniforms for these students come to them already used, and with the wear and tear of the rigors of the program, uniforms wear out. So do shoes. And rifles (non-militarized, of course), and ropes and equipment used for strength and endurance training.

“We have been using a building, all the way across campus from the six trailers that we’re in, that was built and paid for by the football boosters. They want that building back, and I don’t blame them,” said Rose. Therefore, the JROTC program also needs a similar building for training students. Otherwise, the students will have to train in the cold, the heat and the rain.

gray rotc2 190Rose is all too aware of the funding dilemma, but he stated that he and Brown don’t ever want to turn away a student who wants to participate in JROTC. “We have 187 students, and 187 different stories, all of them important.”

Jackson is also well aware of the need for funds, and he summed up the problem in a few powerful, passionate words. “We need help.”

 Over the next few weeks, fundraisers are being held at various businesses in and around Grayson and Snellville, but they still need additional community support to raise the necessary funds.  Advertising space is available on the JROTC travel trailer that travels all across the state for Raider and Drill competitions. Sponsors may also advertise in the Cadet Handbook that all cadets receive each year. 

Individual or corporate sponsors can also get involved in the Grayson ‘Ram Challenge’ Raider Competition hosted at Grayson every September.  Over 400 competitors from 20 high schools will compete in the all-day outdoor athletic competition.  The JROTC Parent Executive Committee re-quires significant assistance to build a Drill Hall and athletic facility for the JROTC program.  Those interested in assisting with the building project may contact Patricia Ragsdale at: patriciaragsdale@yahoo.com. Monetary donations can be mailed to the school at:  Grayson High School,  ATTN:  JROTC,  50 Hope Hollow Road, Loganville, GA 30052. Contributors may also establish a free account and submit donations via www.MyPaymentsPlus.com, TAB Community Donations; Grayson HS JROTC.  All donations to JROTC are tax deductible.