Midtown: Community

Enloe High School JROTC cadets head to leadership competition

The Enloe High School Army JROTC Leadership Bowl national team is, from left, Riana Burton, Zachary Hankins, Matthew Schneider, Colin Jones and Drasuna Simmons. Not pictured is Eneko Zubizarreta.
The Enloe High School Army JROTC Leadership Bowl national team is, from left, Riana Burton, Zachary Hankins, Matthew Schneider, Colin Jones and Drasuna Simmons. Not pictured is Eneko Zubizarreta. COURTESY OF ENLOE JROTC

Just when the rest of us are relishing in school wind-down mode, six Enloe High School JROTC cadets are kicking it up a notch for an extended academic year.

And they’re real glad about it.

The group of cadets is believed to be the first-ever Wake County team to qualify for the Army JROTC Leadership Bowl Championship. The 2016 competition is June 24-28 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The team has passed a rigorous test, virtually speaking. In October, the students entered the competition of 1,600 teams across the world. In February, they were among 600 teams in round two. Later that month, Ret. Maj. Charles Robertson received word the cadets he leads at Enloe were among the 40 teams invited to the championship round.

Hosted by College Options Foundation, the first two rounds are virtual competitions. Teams must showcase critical thinking to research and study, both individually and together, to complete several rigorous assignments that will be shared with cadets and programs around the world to improve units’ operations, program director Emily Donahue said.

The three components of the three-day leadership bowl are the bowl competition, a leadership forum and an experiential learning activity in the nation’s capital, requiring cadets to connect what they’ve learned about citizenship, leadership and government with actual monuments, museums and memorials.

“It’s huge,” Donahue said. “It’s really difficult to make that final cut and make it to the final round. It is an experience they will never forget.”

Robertson said his Enloe team members have versatile interests, backgrounds, talents, strengths and accomplishments.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids, beyond the academics,” Robertson said. “The conferences and the people they will meet will help them get appointments to academies, or earn scholarships in the future, and they’ll also see with new perspective historical things they haven’t seen since elementary school.”

The experience will go beyond seeing during a JROTC 100th anniversary celebration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, which includes a laying of the wreath, Donahue said.

There’s even a chance Enloe cadets will be chosen as part of the Color Guard for the ceremony, she said.

Although Enloe JROTC Battalion Commander Cadet Riana Burton graduates June 10 with her sights set on Campbell University, she’s gung-ho about the extended school year.

“I’ve participated in Leadership Bowl two years, and I’m just excited that my last year we finally qualified,” said Burton, 17, who will include ROTC in her college plans for a pre-med major, with a minor in military science. “I want to take my team the whole way so we can experience it and learn something new. It’s a good event, and I’m going with a good group of kids who motivate me.”

Burton said she’s who she is, and who she’s becoming, because of JROTC.

“JROTC has changed my life tremendously in leadership skills; working in different environments; physically and mentally in overcoming fears of heights, working out, standing in front of people; and, overall, self-confidence and not second-guessing myself,” she said. “It’s taught me a lot and helped me for the real world.”

It’s also added another layer to learning – the doing, said Cadet Matthew Schneider, 16, an Enloe sophomore.

“Ordinarily, when you have a task to complete, you don’t think about the steps,” he said. “This competition helps us look at every step of the task every step of the way, and it helps us think about individual pieces to the whole.

“It’s all such a great opportunity. ... I don’t mind I’m going to still have to do educational things after the end of school.”

Besides, said 15-year-old sophomore cadet Colin Jones, there will be a torch to carry.

“It definitely sets a standard,” he said. “Now that we’ve accomplished so much this year, we have a standard to maintain and will need to accomplish even more next year.”