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Austintown to start Air Force Junior ROTC Program

February 26, 2020
Allie Vugrincic , The Town Crier

Beginning next school year, Austintown Fitch High School will offer a U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Office Training Corps program, said Fitch Principal Tim Kelty.

"We're very proud that we got nominated and selected," Kelty said of the school. He said from his understanding the Air Force typically takes two or three years to get back to a school that wants to set up the program, but for Fitch it responded in two months.

The board of education voted Wednesday to approve the program, which will begin July 1.

Article Photos

Photo by Allie Vugrincic
From left, Veterans of Foreign Wars 4237 Post Commander John Balint Jr., Austintown Middle School teacher Ronald Johnson, middle school students Hunter  Barnett, Kennedy Rodgers, Saturn Galloway, Gabrielle Ceci, Erin Kosinski and VFW 4237 Auxillary President Nicole Morrison pose during the Austintown Board of Education meeting Wednesday at Austintown Middle School. Students received recognition for winning the VFW Patriot's Pen essay contest, this year focused on the theme “What Makes America Great.”

The academically accredited program will be open to students in grades nine through 12 and will aim to teach leadership and life skills that will help students long after high school.

"There's going to be a retired officer who comes in and teaches leadership classes, aeronautics," said Kelty. "The kids will also be able to go out to the Vienna air base, where they will learn about jet airplanes and C-130 (aircraft). They'll be in uniform, all those special things that go along with being a member of the United States Air Force."

Kelty said students in the program will still complete core academic classes, but will take ROTC classes, offered on site at the school, in place of electives.

Students who participate in the Junior ROTC program will not be required to join the military, but will have the chance to enter at a higher pay level if they do, according to Kelty. Air Force Junior ROTC is not tied to military recruitment branches.

Nearly 1,900 retired Air Force officers and enlisted military instructors teach for the Air Force Junior ROTC program, which has about 870 units and more than 125,000 cadets in high schools across the U.S. and in some Department of Defense schools in Europe, the Pacific, Puerto Rico and Guam, according to the U.S. Air Force website. The program explores the history of aerospace technology as well as focusing on STEM (science technology, engineering and math) concepts. Community service is also an aspect of the program.

Kelty said another perk of having the program at the school is that as building principal, he will be able to nominate one student to the Air Force Academy each year. Students generally need to be nominated by a congressman.

"So we'll be very proud that Fitch kids from here on out will be nominated into the Air Force Academy, which is huge," said Kelty.

Also at the board meeting, five students were recognized for winning the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot's Pen essay contest. VFW 4327 Post Commander John Balint Jr. and Auxiliary President Nicole Morrison recognized Austintown Middle School students Gabrielle Ceci, Erin Kosinski, Saturn Galloway, Kennedy Rodgers and Hunter Barnett for their essays on the theme "What Makes America Great."

The contest has several levels, and Barnett's essay made it to the district competition.



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