Leaders of the Future

Army Junior ROTC programs credited with improving the lives of high school students, and that's no different for youth right here in our area.

Cadet Captain Seth Mardis is following in the footsteps of many family members by being in the Taylor County Junior ROTC.

He says the program has changed his life.

"Before I joined the JROTC program my grades were slacking. When I joined JROTC in the ninth grade my grades skyrocketed. I brought them up because in JROTC you have to shoot for a high goal and to do the stuff we do; you have to maintain a certain grade,” says Captain Mardis.

East Gadsden and Taylor County high schools are going to the 2006 National Drill Team Championships this weekend in Daytona Beach, competing against 190 high schools.

"I'm very excited about this. It pays off from all of the hard work and dedication our color guard has put into this. I'm very, very excited. I'm looking forward to this competition,” says William Wright, Color Guard, Taylor County High JROTC.

Taylor County High's Army instructor says the elite competition helps emphasize the mission of JROTC, to motivate young people to be better citizens.

"We go about doing that mainly through discipline, leadership. A variety of other things such as map reading, land navigation, social studies, and a variety of all subjects,” adds 1st Ret. Eddie Smith, Army Instructor, Taylor County JROTC.

First Sgt. Smith says some parents have concerns about students joining JROTC because of the Iraqi war, but says he's proud of two cadets in the competing male color guard already enlisted in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.