COVINGTON - Newton High School's Marine Corps Junior ROTC already is making noise this school year.
For the eighth consecutive year, the program has earned national distinction as a Naval Honor Unit, which places it in the top 20 percent of the 225 MCJROTC programs in the nation.
"As a result of our selection as a Naval Honor Unit, our program may nominate three cadets to compete for 20 appointments under this category to the United States Naval Academy," said Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Sherman Smith, who is the Marine instructor for the program. "Being nominated in this category greatly increases the chances for selection over those individuals who request nomination through their congressmen."
The group was selected based on it being rated Mission Capable at a biannual inspection conducted by higher headquarters, as well as the number of students in the program and the number of hours cadets devote to community service activities. Also, the unit was judged on participation in local, regional and national competitions for its drill team and rifle team, cadet activity in school arts, academic and athletic programs, the number of cadets earning placement on school honor rolls and other factors, according to a press release.
"By achieving Honor Unit status, the Newton High School Marine JROTC continues to be the standard by which all programs are measured," said Dr. Roderick Sams, principal of Newton High School, in a press release. "The cadets display the level of leadership, honor and dedication necessary to excel at the highest level of service. Newton High School is extremely proud of their commitment to excellence and how well they represent their families and community."
Currently, 192 cadets are in the program, which focuses on leadership development, character building, discipline and positive productive citizenship. Cadets participate in several competitions throughout the year in various Southern states, regularly perform in ceremonies and community service projects around Newton County and have a heavy focus on the annual Marine Corps Reserves' Toys for Tots program.
"The attributes that our cadets acquire will help them in any endeavor they pursue," Smith said. "We do not pressure nor recommend our cadets join the military - we want them to be disciplined leaders in whatever career they choose. ... We feel that graduates of our program are better equipped to handle the complexities and demands of life after school than the average graduate."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.