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CLK’s nationally renowned JROTC program motivates cadets to reach for more

One of the oldest in the nation, Calumet High School’s JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp) program - the North Star Battalion - began in 1917 and has continued to grow and see success ever since. JROTC provides an inclusive environment for high school students to gain self-confidence, practice leadership skills, and become overall better citizens while serving their community.

Led by Major Michael Farley and First Sergeant Mark Powell, more than 90 students are involved this year (about 25% of the student population). JROTC programs are comprised of activities-based programs, leadership labs, and seven teams for student cadets to participate in, including Raiders (a year-round outdoor physical fitness program), drill, choir, robotics, rifle, cybersecurity, and color guard. In fact, CLK has the only skating color guard team in the country. The teams are overseen by junior and senior cadets who have worked up to leadership positions, with guidance from Major Farley and First Sergeant Powell. “Our leadership philosophy in all aspects of our program will be cadet-driven,” said Powell. “Once a cadet reaches a leadership role, they are empowered and trained to take things into their own hands. We’re just here to provide support and mentorship when needed.”

Working together to accomplish things both locally and nationally to proudly represent CLK, the North Star Battalion organizes and participates in Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies for the school and community, leads adventure challenges for 6th graders, sings the National Anthem and presents the color guard at local events and games, and more. Motivated to always do their best and push even higher, various teams like Raiders, Robotics, and JLAB (JROTC Leadership & Academic Bowl) have received recognition from other JROTC teams across the Midwest and competed on a national level.

From students to teachers
During the JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge - a week-long summer camp - last summer in Calumet, five other JROTC teams made up of 70+ cadets came together for an intense week of leadership training, outdoor activities, physical challenges, and robotics training sessions that were taught by the JROTC robotics team in coordination with the Calumet high school robotics team - the Copperbots.

From the entirety of the group knowing nothing about robotics at the start of the week, CLK was proud to teach every cadet how to build and operate robots, something that the group mastered by the end of the training sessions. After the week’s end, the JROTC Midwest Brigade, headquartered in Chicago, invited the JROTC robotics team to travel to Des Moines, IA, to teach other JROTC leaders about robotics. After the training, more than a dozen other schools implemented robotics into their JROTC programs.

Competing nationally at JLAB
JLAB is an all-service national competition that culminates in Washington, D.C. for the championship. Meeting two to three days per week, the JLAB team studies core curriculum as well as ROTC leadership curriculum and takes online exams to advance in the competition. Out of 1700 schools, only 40 are qualified to compete in Washington, D.C. The JLAB team at CLK has competed nationally in approximately 10 out of the last 15 years.

While national recognition and competitions are exciting for the cadets, the school, and the community, the importance of JROTC lies in the student cadets being empowered to be better citizens, serve their communities, and find camaraderie in their peers. Regardless of what the cadets choose to be involved in, everyone is supported and walks away with something special. “Ultimately, JROTC is about motivating young people to be better citizens,” said Farley. “Day to day, JROTC students find a sense of family here, which is what allows them to be successful and get things done. They gain self-confidence, see that they can accomplish anything, and they have a place that they know, without a doubt, they are welcome and appreciated for who they are.

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Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw

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