Photo by Johnny Jackson
Cadet Brandon Ivey, 16, pushes through a set of sit-ups Friday at Charles Drew High School. Chief Master Sgt. Michael Atkinson (top) leads the physical training exercise, a component of the school’s Air Force JROTC program.
RIVERDALE — Although officials begrudge funding cuts related to the March sequester, some federal dollars are coming to support a school-level JROTC program in Clayton County.
The school board recently accepted $67,973 in federal funds for operating expenses in the Air Force JROTC program at Charles Drew High School. The district has been paying for the program since its inception nearly two years ago.
Maj. Willie Bohles is the program’s senior aerospace science instructor, one of two in the school. He said the school opened in August 2009 without a program.
The board funded its operations initially but learned that the new school was next on a waiting list of programs to be funded through the Air Force starting in July.
Principal Gary Townsend said he believes the program has added an intangible value to the school culture at Drew High.
“The ROTC program brings a level of expected discipline for the cadets,” said Townsend. “It also brings a structured environment to the school. And the instructors themselves create an atmosphere of support not just in their program but throughout the school.”
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Atkinson is the second aerospace science instructor. He and Bohles started the program in July 2011.
“The potential is unlimited,” said Bohles. “Our goal is to meet the superintendent’s expectations and the expectations of the Air Force to be a distinguished unit.”
The 134-member unit is led by senior Cadet Lt. Col. Kenya Watson, 18.
The group has already attended an academic bowl, two drill meets and hosted a drill meet involving 10 area units. In March, the unit inducted 12 cadets into its chapter of the Kitty Hawk Air Society, a national honor society for Air Force JROTC cadets.
Bohles expects the program will have its first unit inspection next school year.
“We’re basically a leadership laboratory and our mission is to help build character and better citizens for America,” said Bohles.