“When we find out that a student is failing any of their classes, we call them into our office and talk to them about it. We ask them why they are getting these poor grades. We explain to them that if they don't graduate from high school they can't get into college. It's simple stuff, but in reality a lot of these kids don't have someone to tell it to them, so we do,” Penning said.
“Sometimes all these students need is someone to say, ‘You can do this'. Just someone to give them motivation, and it can make a big difference. You hope that you can have some small impact on their life,” Penning said.
Lounge said she hopes to join the National Guard to help pay her way through college. She wants to become a psychologist.
“I want to help people who suffer from mental health issues. I don't think enough attention is given to people who suffer from those issues,” she said.
Lounge said before visiting with representatives of the JROTC her freshman year, she didn't know what it was.
“I saw a booth with a bunch of people in uniforms and thought it would be neat just to try it out. Now I'm so glad that I did because the corps is like a family.”
Desiree Nemecek, 16, said her parents met in a high school JROTC class.
“My parents always talk about their experience in JROTC, and my mom really wanted me to join, but I wasn't sure if it was for me,” Nemecek said.
She joined this year as a junior and serves as public relations officer.
Last year, the corps initiated a clothing drive that teachers, students, community leaders and churches participated in.
“One church gave us roughly 1,000 clothing items. Alone, the corps donated 1,700 clothing items,” Miller said.
The clothing was donated to Goodwill.
Nemecek said she wants to see JROTC programs get the recognition they deserve.
“Every day we see football players and cheerleaders getting in the papers, and we believe that there are future cadets in this corps that want to fight for this country and should be noticed,” she said.