View Full Version : School getting Marines program

11-01-06, 07:05 AM
School getting Marines program

By Don Jordan

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Students at Palm Beach Lakes High School soon may have an additional dress code option to complement their khaki pants and polo shirts: a leatherneck.

After hearing requests from students year after year, school officials said they are establishing a Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, the first in Palm Beach County.

The program) stresses discipline, Principal Nate Collins said. "It fosters teamwork. It's a good education piece for the students who are interested in it."

And it's rare.

Although Army, Navy and Air Force JROTC programs are available at two county high schools each, the Marine Corps counterpart is offered at only 13 schools in the state.

The nearest is Deerfield Beach High School. Collins said he hopes to have the program ready for students by next fall.

The Marine Corps will pay about $150,000 to implement the program, plus $75,000 to $100,000 each year to maintain it, said Bill McHenry, national director of Marine Corps JROTC.

The Marines run about 220 JROTC programs across the country, McHenry said, adding that congressional funding limits how many schools they can work with.

"The bottom line is that we feel privileged to be in America's schools," McHenry said. "We would love to be in more schools."

McHenry was also quick to point out that JROTC programs are not about military indoctrination, despite the stereotypes.

"Contrary to what you'd think, kids that take JROTC are less dogmatic, are more liberal and think better about themselves," McHenry said. "The reason why it is so good for kids is that it's a good gang.

"You put them in there with a couple of Marine Corps officers that really care about them, and magic happens."

The program will use empty space left by the school's marine technology academy, which closed last spring after competition from the new Riviera Beach Maritime Academy charter school.

Because of the closing, officials at the school district's choice program and school choice department gave the program high priority.

"We really wanted to get another program that we thought the students would be interested in at Palm Beach Lakes," said Mary Vreeland, director of the department.

School officials will use district money to outfit the space to include a classroom, office, space to store uniforms and weapons, and space to conduct drills.

Collins said he still has to hire a teacher, most likely a retired Marine.