Stephanie Xolot-Rosas was an incredibly quiet freshman. She spent most of her time with her family, and said she did not have many friends. However, when she joined the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), Xolot-Rosas said she really came out of her shell.
“I was so quiet when I was a freshman,” she said. “I was that kid that you didn’t really notice, I was easy to miss because I was so quiet. This class (JROTC) really helped build me up, and build up my confidence.”
Now, as a high school senior, when she was sitting in the library to talk with the Northeast News, staff walked by saying things like “Look at her, isn’t she amazing?”
Xolot-Rosas has been in JROTC for four years, but joined Special Teams two years ago, which is what allowed her to participate in the highly-competitive drill competition. She had practiced two days a week, for about three hours a day since October.
Military Drill competitions require students to showcase their skills by performing strict drills as a group. Out of 160 students competing, Xolot-Rosas won. As the whole district of JROTC competed in this competition, this win was huge for Northeast High school.
The school’s principal, Mr. Douglas Bolden, came in showing photos, bragging on her accomplishments as if she were his own daughter. As he flipped through the photos of the competitors, he landed on one of Xolot-Rosas after the win.
“Look at how happy all of her teammates are for her,” he said. “It is genuine happiness and love for her success.”
Xolot-Rosas was one of about 15 or 16 Northeast High school students to compete in the competition. Despite the JROTC’s reputation, not all of these students enter the military after the program is complete.
Only two or three students a year enter the military after graduation, according to Colonel Richard Hillard, one of the instructors of the JROTC program.
JROTC has many assumptions put upon it about how they’re preparing children for joining the military, but Hillard said it is not a program meant to prep kids to join the service. JROTC is not offered in every school, Hillard told the Northeast News. It is only offered to schools that have at-risk students, as a way to implement security and help them flourish in their environment.
“Because the kids wear uniforms, people assume it’s all about military prepping. It’s really about creating a stable environment for the children to help them grow and have a support system,” noted Hillard.
In fact, Xolot-Rosas plans on going to Rockhurst University after she graduates high school this year, to be a counselor for children.
She has helped take care of and raise her two younger brothers. She feels that this has helped create the path for counseling, because she has learned how to relate to those younger than her. She even got her youngest brother, who is a freshman now, to join JROTC and participate as much as possible in the program. She wanted her brother to experience the same constancy and confidence JROTC has given her.
For many, like Stephanie Xolot-Rosas, the JROTC has been an amazing outlet for her to succeed. To learn more about the JROTC program, visit usarmyjrotc.com, or call your local school to see how you can get involved.