A unique program at Mexico High School is teaching students about courage, commitment and dedication. A Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program is helping students develop skills for a positive future. But as our Brad Vivacqua found out, it's not necessarily a future in the military that these students will choose.
MEXICO, N.Y. – Dedication. Sacrifice. And obedience. Those traits are helping transform young students into leaders of the future.
Every morning, a few dozen teenagers enrolled in Mexico high's junior ROTC program begin drills at 5:30 a.m. in the high school gym.
"It's definitely tough at times, but it's definitely worth it. It's just one of those things that you know you're going to wake up and do something big," said Matthew Raymond, a Mexico High School senior.
Just a few other Central New York high schools offer similar programs.
From spinning rifles to marching and fitness drills, these young teens are honing their skills to build camaraderie and prepare for competition. The group is led by retired Marine instructors Sergeant Major Earl Combes and Lieutenant Colonel John Freda.
"It's an elective that any of the students at Mexico High School can choose to take and it focuses on developing them as individuals first, building their ability to excel and then transitioning and giving them the opportunity to learn as a leader," Lt. Col. Freda said.
You may assume that this program would likely lead to a military career path. And although it may for some, it doesn't necessarily have to.
"You can go into the military, but you don't have to go into the military if you're in this program. Like I'm going into nursing, but it definitely teaches you leadership skills for the future," said senior Samantha Ladd.
This team participates in about four competitions each semester, which includes one this weekend in Massachusetts. But regardless of those results, the true results are evident.
"When you make a difference, when you see them grow as people, it's really rewarding," Freda said.
Students in the Mexico JROTC team will also head to Daytona Beach in May to participate in a national drill team competition.