Junior ROTC Instills Core Values
Franklin K. Lane’s Model Unit Helps Students Succeed
Established in 1996, The Air Force Junior ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) program on the Franklin K. Lane Campus has been the model for several other training units throughout the city, garnering 124 trophies over the past 10 years in regulation drills competitions, exhibition drills along with armed and unarmed inspections.
ChiefMaster Sgt. Jose L. Silveira andMaster Sgt. Eddie F. Carr instruct between 130 to 150 high school students annually in the effort of instilling teenagers with the proper values that will propel them into successful futures as college students and ultimately as adult professionals.
Silveiro, a 25-year Air Force veteran, had already prepared to settle down as a teacher in sunny northwest Florida when Lane, located on the Brooklyn/Queens border, came calling in 2001 and asked him to take over their ROTC program and help spearhead an honor guard endeavor that allowed the school to participate in various drill contests.
But unlike most afterschool activities, ROTC programs include a specific curriculum that consists of military science and applied leadership courses that allow students to earn credits toward their diplomas.
“It’s a matter of creating an atmosphere in which these inner-city kids can go ahead and participate in a wholesome activity under supervision,” Silveiro explained. “We’re teaching them a curriculum that develops attitude, discipline, responsibility and character.”
Although the recruitment numbers have dipped slightly over the past few years as Lane is being phased out into multiple smaller high schools, the number of males in the program has seen a marked increase, according to the career military man. In fact, when Silveiro first came on board, FKL’s ROTC group was over 70 percent female.
“We went from 170, 180 and now we’re oscillating between 130 and 150. That has to do with the different philosophies of the new schools, but they’re working with us. Sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate things and make the curriculums match,” he detailed.
During his interview with the Times Newsweekly, Silveiro clarified that there aren’t any tests to study for or any physical requirements needed on the part of the students to qualify. His program, he stated, isn’t a tool used to recruit young adults for the armed forces, but rather it’s an initiative designed to transform low-achieving youngsters into success stories.
Although a small percentage of students do go on to become Marine and Air Force officers, the ROTC commander emphasizes the importance of obtaining a college education after high school. As such, the young men and women of the ROTC are expected to maintain defined standards of academic excellence in order to remain reserve officers.
“We tell them a high school education is important, but it’s not enough to be successful. Our labor management has put some thought ahead to what they’ll be competing against, so [the ROTC program] is definitely an asset. The other thing is that it becomes part of your resume. Everyone knows about the ROTC program. It creates separation from the rest of the crowd because of our curriculum whether its for a college application or an employment form,” he added.
Through the years, Lane’s ROTC contingent has offered their services to Woodhaven and surrounding communities in a variety of ways. To that end, Silveiro has teamed up with groups such as the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) to lend a hand in graffiti and park cleanups.
In addition, his students have frequently been active participants in local festivals, memorials and parades. The officers also assist fellow students by tutoring those who may be falling behind in particular subjects.
When asked what the biggest benefit the students are getting out of the program, the married father of two said, “I believe it develops character. It instills values that for whatever reason are missing in our young people today. In fact, that has motivated me to take over the program. I spent most of my military career overseas… when I came back to the States, I experienced a culture shock with two teenage girls who went through public education.”
The ROTC, he said, helps fill in the gaps in raising adolescents and teens created by overworked parents who are struggling to make ends meet and numerous schools that focus solely on academics.
Most recently, Lane’s ROTC team participated in theAir Force National Drill Classic Competition in which students won first-place, secondplace and sixth-place prizes.
“We are very proud of these young men and women and we want to showcase them to the world. They are living proof that with proper guidance and motivation, students will rise to the occasion and succeed regardless of their environment,” said Silveiro, who expressed pride with the members of the ROTC.
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