Benjamin Russell’s Navy JROTC program hosted an orientation camp this week for ten rising freshmen to prepare them before school starts.
The future students went through drills, participated in a lesson and got fitted for uniforms. Students also met upperclassmen in the program, were given a tour of the school and introduced to staff.
“They can start their first day of ninth grade knowing some upperclassmen they can trust who aren’t going to make fun of them and who they can ask silly questions to and get answers (and) a couple of instructors who they know, ‘OK, I can talk to you,’” naval science instructor Ben Smith said. “It really reduces their stress and we’re hoping that’ll give them better performances in the long run.”
In addition to helping the freshmen, Smith had the upperclassmen run the camp to grow their leadership skills.
“I’ve tried to let the returning students lead and do what they do to the point of some of them are getting annoyed with me because they’ll say, ‘What are we doing?’ I’ll say, ‘I don’t know what are we doing. You’re in charge, not me. What are we doing? You tell me,’” Smith said. “They’re learning and they’re doing a good job and it teaches them to mentor. It teaches them to teach, and obviously those are skills very much in demand in the workforce.”
The camp ended Thursday with a game of flag football. Rising freshman Scarlett Henderson said she liked the camp and is less nervous starting high school.
“I really wanted to do something for high school and a lot of people in here are very successful and very good role models,” Henderson said. “I figured I could do that.”
In addition to upperclassmen taking on leadership roles, Smith said he saw a few rising freshmen also grow during the week.
“There’s a couple of them I see real leadership potential in who were kind of timid these first couple of days,” Smith said. “And now looking out there I see smiles on their faces and they’re stepping up and leading and it’s pretty awesome. They’re volunteering for stuff, they’re comfortable and it’s in four days. If they can start ninth grade already comfortable, I think that’s a big advantage and that was one of our big goals.”
The upperclassmen also wanted the incoming students to get a head start into the program with the camp, according to rising junior Kailey Pennington.
“We’ve got a lot of staff here because we wanted to put them in a leadership role to try to get them to take charge like taking care of the freshmen and making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Pennington said.
Giving the students uniforms during camp and introducing them to the curriculum cuts down on losing class time, Smith said.
Rising sophomore Charley Burgess advised students in the program to take it seriously.
“Just do what you need to and it pays off,” Burgess said.