Photo by Justin Criado

Perry JROTC instructors Maj. Christopher Augustine (right) and Sgt. 1st Class John Holtz. The program is the only one offered in the city of Pittsburgh and welcomes students from other schools. 

 

By Justin Criado

Amongst their peers, they stand out.

Dressed in suits and a tie adorned with medals and rank distinctions, the Perry high school JROTC cadets are a class all of their own.

“We see those students as the leaders within the school and we want to try and nurture those students to be a school within a school to provide an example to everyone else,” principal Dr. Dennis Chakey said.

Perry’s JROTC program is the only one offered in the city of Pittsburgh and welcomes students from every city school.

Maj. Christopher Augustine and Sgt. 1st Class John Holtz are the program’s instructors and said they’ve seen nothing but positive changes in students who decide to join.

“It’s a winners’ program,” Augustine said. “People come here to succeed. We won’t allow them to fail.”

Holtz added: “I really enjoy watching them grow in to young adults.”

Perry senior Robert Jones has been with the program since his freshman year and said his experience has been nothing but positive, certainly a change from the alternative.

“When I first walked through the door they asked me why I wanted to be in the program,” Jones, 18, of Perry Hilltop, said. “I told them to build up courage and leadership skills. That’s what I’ve been gaining.

“You see kids out here each day, but what do you hear? You always hear about them on the news and hear about them on the streets doing drugs, drinking and they have no self-confidence in themselves.”

The program has a classroom, weight room and practice space on the bottom floor, and Augustine says there’s plans for expansion.

The program also started a “raider” team this year to compete in the district Raider Challenge, which is a physical fitness competition.

Students in the program also have a chance to receive scholarships, a result of higher academic performance and less absenteeism from the cadets, according to Augustine.

“What it does for the student is definitely provide a sense of discipline and self-confidence,” Augustine said. “It definitely carries a lot of weight with the school administration here. It creates a well-rounded child.”