Eastern Carolina NJROTC academic team heads to National Champioship for 7th year

PAMLICO COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Eight students from Pamlico County High School will travel to Florida in two months to compete in a national academic competition.

“The opportunities that our ROTC program provides for our students are really unmatched,” said Pamlico County schools superintendent Jeremy Johnson.

The Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps academic team qualified for the Academic National Championship by placing first in the state competition.

“When you look at the competition that’s out there, you look at where we’re from, you look at the hard work that’s been put into it, it’s just a humbling process,” said NJROTC’s Master Chief Dave Matthews.

The team has been to nationals for the past seven years, with each competition being held in a different state. “We usually try to make a really good, fun week out of it. Last year, I think we went for three or four days, and we competed that Saturday, and that’s how it’s supposed to be this year,” said the Academic Team Commander, Allyson Leaming

The NJROTC programs help students with skills that they might not be able to grasp in a normal high school setting.

“One how to be accountable for their actions. Two, not to be afraid. I think in this day and age, kids are so afraid of making a mistake, they’re going to be judged, you know, social media’s absolutely horrible when it comes to that. So we teach our kids, hey, you’re going to make mistakes. You have to learn how to adapt,” said Matthews.

It also helps kids prepare for the future, whether that be college or the military, though Matthews says not many students in the program join the military.

The US Department of Defense says several military services missed their recruiting goals for 2023. But these NJROTC students are proof that interest still exists, and this program helps nurture that.

“I would like to go into the military. This program has really inspired me to do that,” said Leaming.

Or encourage them to continue family traditions and use the program as a stepping stone. “My family has always been connected to the military through people like my grandpa, who got the bronze star in Vietnam. My family has a history of military service,” said Cadet Lieutenant Commander Jackson Callen.

The students I spoke with said they have been studying hard for the national competition and hope to take home another trophy.

Throughout the trip to Florida, the master chief also said they would visit universities and explore other avenues that may be helpful for the student’s future.