For the past 48 years, Milpitas High School’s (MHS) NJROTC program has endured.
Known as the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, the program helps to cultivate a sense of leadership, citizenship, and community service among high school students.
Currently, MHS’ NJROTC program has around 100 students across grades 9-12. In the past, that number has been much higher.
Lieutenant Margie Jackson, who has been the Senior Naval Science Instructor for MHS’s NJROTC program for the last several years, has seen firsthand how the lives of youth can be shaped with a dose of discipline, life skills, and character-building. LT Jackson served for 34 years with the US Coast Guard. And if she hadn’t aged out, she’d still be serving there today.
LT Jackson would love to see more youth find their way into MHS’ NJROTC program, and has been working hard to recruit other students:
“We were growing our program when the virus came along,” said LT Jackson, “and that took the rug out from under us. It’s been slow getting started again.”
The drop in recruitment numbers can also be attributed, LT Jackson believes, to the changing demographics of the community, along with more parents who are solely focused on sending their children to college.
“They don’t see the military as being a good option,” said LT Jackson. “But it really is a good option for kids. It helps them find themselves. It helps them grow up. And when they get into college, they appreciate what they’ve already learned.”
Recently, MHS’ NJROTC program was put on probation by the military due to low enrollment numbers. But at the recent 1/25 Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Board of Education Meeting, Superintendent Cheryl Jordan announced that MHS’ program was off the “watch list” and that the military had commended them for all their recent efforts in recruitment.
So for now, Milpitas High’s program can continue to evolve. However, more students will need to be recruited in the future in order for it to continue.
Meanwhile, although the NJROTC program is rooted in providing strong naval education and training, it isn’t solely an option for students who are interested in joining the military after high school.
The NJROTC program offers every student, no matter what their career goals, a chance to develop their leadership skills, learn more about the government, and become responsible, informed citizens.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“It has been 8 months since I moved to the US. So It was a new world for me. I didn’t know anybody. NJROTC helped me make new friends. I remember going home and only talking about NJROTC. The unit has helped me become a better person. Not only did it boost my confidence, it also helped me express my thoughts without hesitation.”
– Cadet Seaman Recruit Geetika Varshney, 11th grade MHS student
Milpitas resident Bill Chuan served in the army from 1988-90, just before the first Gulf War. Back then, he was an Armor Crewman; he drove tanks.
“After high school, I went into the military,” said Chuan. “Military discipline is a good thing. It’s helped me in my life to have that right discipline.”
Chuan, who also serves as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Milpitas, started volunteering with the NJROTC program last year. He’s been working to promote the program, recruit more students, organize guest speakers for the classroom, and support LT Jackson in any way he can.
“I see potential in these kids,” said Chuan. “Seeing what they’re able to do and their capability…it’s something that has touched my heart, to witness some of the things they do for our community, and for our veterans.”
Chuan made note of the competitiveness that comes with getting into college after high school. He truly believes that a student who has been through an NJROTC program has a clear advantage over other applicants.
“This program teaches them how to get things done. It teaches them how to be a good citizen and how to have good character,” said Chuan. “This is something you can’t just get from anywhere.”
Milpitas High School’s NJROTC program is built into the school day, as part of 6th period. Every day, they delve into academics and active learning. Students learn how to become strong public speakers, and to be confident and in charge.
Anshika Suripur is a sophomore at MHS, and a first-year cadet of the NJROTC program.
“I’ve enhanced my skills and honed my abilities to develop my cognitive awareness skills and leadership to use them in the numerous opportunities provided,” said Suripur. “Even though I’ve just started, this program is very close to my heart since all the people I have met here have helped me grow and become the best person I can be. Not a day goes by where I leave the classroom without learning something new.”
Along with going to classes, students in NJROTC are also active in the community. At Milpitas’ Veterans Day ceremony last November, students from NJROTC were there helping out. The students also write letters to veterans throughout the year.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“I have always felt judged, out of place, and unwelcomed in school. I joined rotc as a last resort, because i wanted experience, so i could graduate and join the military. looking back now, it was way more than that. i found a family and shoulders to cry on.”
– Cadet madion hall, 10th grade MHS STUDENT
Cadets also took part in the Milpitas High Homecoming parade, and were instrumental in Milpitas’ 9/11 20th anniversary event in 2021. In collaboration with others in the City, Chuan worked to organize and plan the 9/11 event, as he felt it was something deeply important for the cadets to be a part of…
“We came up with the idea of having a solemn ceremony and doing a flag-folding event,” said Chuan. “We had the cadets there as representatives for Milpitas. They were there to honor the fallen.”
The cadets have also started leading the flag salute at MUSD board meetings.
One trend that LT Jackson sees right now is that the military has a real need for intel and computer experts. “Now the military is looking for the same smart dudes that all these big corporations are looking for,” said LT Jackson.
Although the cadets in her program are never pressured into joining the military, it’s certainly a strong option for those willing to consider it.
“People think everyone who goes to the military fights in a war. In 34 years, I never saw a front line,” said LT Jackson. “But I got a lot of education and opportunities to travel around the world. And to have my education paid for, along with experiences I would have never been able to take advantage of, had I not been a part of the military.”
Cadet Alex Xavier, who is in his junior year at MHS, feels that this program has helped him to get out of his bubble and expand his comfort zone.
“When I joined NJROTC, it was simply to fill in some credits,” said Xavier. “But little did I know that it would truly change me as a person.”
To learn more about the program, go here.