Learning to Lead In JROTC

Apopka is the home of many bright and scholarly classes. An example of this is JROTC or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program built to help you learn the importance of being a leader. The Blue and White asked a few students and one teacher around campus about JROTC and how it’s affected them.


We first interviewed Gunnery Sergeant Washington, one of the two teachers of JROTC here at Apopka. As a leader of JROTC, we asked GySgt. Washington, what does she do as a leader? “That’s a hard question, show them what it is to really lead. Like to me, leadership isn’t just teaching, it’s showing as well, so just showing them what a leader looks like,” she said. When you do something for a while, it tends to impact your lifestyle, but how does JROTC affect GySgt. Washington’s life? “I have learned a lot from my kids. I’ve learned from different generations the different generational struggles and I’ve learned that y’all gotta deal with a lot. Your hands, your plates are full beyond what I can even imagine, so I just learned to be more patient and understanding.” The last question we asked GySgt. Washington was if she would recommend JROTC to everyone. She told us that, “I would recommend it to everyone because its not just a marine corps course, it is a leadership course. It’s made to help you learn how to become a better leader that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a better leader in the military but a better leader hands down.”


The next interviewee is Cadet Sergeant Major Sophia Mateus. Sophia is one of the 3 student leaders of JROTC. Sophia explained, “What I do as a leader for community service, since I have one of the highest ranks, I’m supposed to be supervising some people and making sure that nothing wrong happens. For drill team in these past 2 years my junior and senior year, I was one of the commanders for one of the drill teams, ‘unarmed exhibition’ you could do anything you want in the field in a military manner, and I was in charge of that.” Everyone has their own reasons for joining classes and clubs, even Sophia. She stated that her reason to join ROTC was, “always in the back of my mind since I entered High School, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated High School. In freshman year I would see kids running around in uniform and in my head I would make fun of them, and during my freshman year around new years I decided to change my mind and give JROTC a try and I did, and this was the best decision of my high school career.” When asked if she believes everyone should join JROTC, Sophia responded with, “No, not to everybody. I don’t believe that it’s for everybody. I’ve seen many people come and go from the program. But I do believe that we have a great group of people that will make you feel like you’re a part of them, and that’s what I feel in ROTC. I feel like I found a group I belong with, and of course, it’s not gonna be your group of people that you may fit in with, but we do have some great instructors that will make you do your personal best at all times.”


The second student The Blue and White talked to was Sophomore Tyler McKinley. When we asked Tyler why he decided to join JROTC, he responded with the quote, “Because I have [always] wanted to serve my country and this seemed like the place to meet people and do things with the same topic in mind.” Tyler went on to explain that in JROTC he does, “Physical training on occasion while learning about the marine corps, however, we also can take a lot more from the lessons given.” JROTC has a few special squads for drill teams and color guard. We asked Tyler if he was a part of one of these squads, and if so what does he do on that team? Tyler shared with us that he is “on the drill team, rifle team and color guard. Yes, they are enjoyable they are somewhat difficult because they are repetitive however, in the long run, you have fun with your fellow cadets, and in the end, you have a lot of fun.”


The last student we interviewed was Sophomore Isael Labrado. He shared with us that he, “was inspired to join JROTC due to the lessons and experience that my cousin and aunt went through when they joined JROTC.” He explained how in JROTC he learns about, “how to be a leader, to take responsibility, to care for those around us, and try our personal best at all times.” We finished the interview off with asking Isael if he believes everyone should join JROTC. According to him, he would recommend JROTC only to those who are, “willing to put their heart and time into it, similar to having a job, there are regulations that need to be followed, and not everyone has the dedication to follow through.”


In conclusion, Apopka’s JROTC is one of the finest classes here on campus. They help to teach you dedication, leadership, and many more amazing skills.