OCEANSIDE — “If it wasn’t for ROTC, I would have been in a gang or juvi,” said Giovanni Delgado, a junior at Oceanside High School.
The Oceanside High School junior credits his involvement in the MCJROTC (Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training) program for helping him stay away from the negative influences in the neighborhood he lives in.
“It’s more than just a class, it’s about creating a giant family,” he said.
The MCJROTC programs at both Oceanside High School and El Camino High School are designed to instill academic excellence, leadership, fitness, and citizenship skills in its hundreds of student participants. But aside from earning good grades, students readily attribute their personal growth to the program.
The original MCJROTC program at Oceanside Unified School District was started at Oceanside High School in 1979. As the program grew, a separate program was started at El Camino High School in 2008.
During the 2013-14 school year, 151 students at Oceanside High School and 107 students at El Camino High School participated in the programs, which are integrated into elective courses at both schools.
“The programs instill leadership skills the same way as the regular military,” explained First Sgt. Gene LaRue, who runs the MCJROTC program for the district. “It gives students the opportunity to earn higher rank and responsibility through working hard… Rank and advancement is tied into overall GPA (grade point average) and other teacher recommendations.”
Together, students in the programs completed about 13,000 hours of community service total during the past school year. Fifty-seven of those students made the Honor Roll.
Students also raised over $11,000 to send students to leadership camps as well as drill, color guard, and fitness competitions.
Oceanside High School student Eduardo Meza said that through his MCJROTC efforts, he feels more prepared to be a leader after high school.
He said that if it had not been for the program, he likely would have stayed in his shell.
“I’d probably be less confident than I am now,” he said.
The graduating senior said he has joined the Army and will be leaving Aug. 4.