Marine junior reserve officer training corps flourishes at Northeast High School

As senior instructor of Northeast High School's MCJROTC program, Master Sgt. Christopher Mattis, of Pasadena, envisions himself as a factory worker molding MCJROTC cadets into better versions of themselves.

"They're like raw material," he said.

MCJROTC, or Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is run like a well-oiled machine at Northeast High School. Established at the school in 2015, Mattis took over as senior instructor during the 2016-17 school year. He was previously enlisted in the Marine Corps for 20 years.

The school has a wing dedicated to the program, which includes offices, classrooms and an all-purpose room designated as the "hang-out spot," Mattis said.

Military memorabilia decorates the red and blue wing. Original Marine Corps uniforms and hats from past to present, including some from the 1800's, are displayed on mannequins throughout the area.

The wing also houses a supply room containing student uniforms sometimes worn during school hours and outside of school for events such as parades. An armory stocked with pellet rifles used for marksmanship training is located inside the supply room.

This year, Northeast established a CyberPatriot team in partnership with the Air Force Association's National Youth Cyber Education Program. CyberPatriot was created to help educate students interested in cyber security and other STEM careers.

Mattis recruited three individuals working for Air Force cyber security at the National Security Agency to volunteer as coaches for the team. Coaches volunteer "out of the goodness of their heart," Mattis said.

The team practices three days a week and took home a third place award during the national CyberPatriot competition in Baltimore.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Paul Chilcote is one of the coaches who teaches fundamentals of programming to the new team. Previously a mechanic, he's now an active duty Air Force Airman at NSA where he works in cyber security.

"I wish I'd had a program like this when I was in school,” he said.

Fifteen-year-old Cadet Cpl. Scott Creamer, a ninth-grader, is CyberPatriot's team captain. He says he enjoys the program and is learning coding, programming, how to build a website and create a video game. The team is constructing its own "space invaders" video game which they plan to make into an app.

The team meets after school three days a week. In July, they will attend a free week-long summer camp to study with college students and train with some of the best cyber minds in the field.

Other MCJROTC teams include color guard, drill team, marksmanship, YPFT, or Youth Physical Fitness Team, and sub teams Academic Bowl, Raiders and Orienteering.

Drill team and YPFT member, Cadet 2nd Lt. Abigail Ward, 16, says her favorite part of the program is YPFT which starts at 5:45 a.m. After running around the school, students lift weights and perform high-intensity interval training.

As executive officer, Abigail is responsible for organizing meetings, creating agendas, and keeping records.

Abigail wasn't surprised by the early morning workouts or military discipline, but the focus the program places on personal growth.

"JROTC pushes every cadet as an individual, to keep their grades up and challenge themselves," she said.

She hopes to attend the Naval Academy following graduation.

Mattis says MCJROTC is not a recruitment program for the military, it's a program designed to teach students how to become better citizens. Although some of the program's students do enlist in the military following high school, others enroll into a military academy such as the Naval Academy or attend a regular four-year college.

Watching cadets flourish in the program "brightens my day," Mattis said.

The elective course is offered during all four years of high school. As cadets mature, they take on more responsibilities such as performing roll calls, teaching classes and developing curriculums for future school years. Mattis refers to this process as "teach back."

Community service is a vital part of the MCJROTC program. Whether its community clean-ups, food drives, events or parades, cadets must complete at least 75 hours of community service each school year. Their most recent event was a 5K held at Northeast which raised money for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

The group will participate in a parade at Riviera Beach VFC at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The drill team and color guard will march in the parade.

Mattis' assistant instructor Gunnery Sgt. K.D. Jenkins started teaching at Northeast this year. Jenkins first met Mattis 18 years ago while they were both attending military school in Japan. Following 22 years in the Marine Corps, Jenkins says he enjoys teaching high school students.

His favorite aspect of the program is "transforming kids from ‘I don't know what to do,’ to ‘I got it,’ " he said.

Mattis says the program at Northeast has evolved over the past few years; it now includes 122 cadets, 25 are girls. Next year, he's hoping to have more than 150 cadets enrolled.

Students interested in joining MCJROTC must pass physical requirements and obtain parental permission.

Mattis believes cadets who do well in the program are engaged, motivated and polished.

"The students I believe do well are the ones with self-efficacy," he said.

For more information about MCJROTC or color guard presentations, email Mattis at cmattis@aacps.org.

Mosquito spraying

Green Haven Improvement Association applied for mosquito control spraying through the Department of Agriculture. Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 2:20 a.m. are designated spray nights starting May 30 through Oct. 2.

Persons not wanting their property sprayed must fill out an exemption form and notify the Department of Agriculture and provide a copy to GHIA. Forms are available at GHIA meetings.

For additional information, call Anthony DeWitt at 410–841–5870 or attend GHIA's next meeting at 7 p.m. May 22 at George Fox Middle School.

Share your Pasadena news with Atalie Day Brown at adbrownmdgazette@gmail.com

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