The Charles County Public Schools Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC) program provides student cadets with learning opportunities that are deeply rooted in military traditions. These traditions range from participating in the Color Guard and drill meets to serving as leaders in their school communities. For the 175 senior cadets enrolled in the program at Charles County’s seven high schools, the Colonel Donald M. Wade Joint Services Military Ball is a tradition held annually to honor and celebrate their participation in JROTC.
This year’s ball was held Dec. 4 at North Point High School, and is the ninth annual event coordinated by the school system. As part of the ball, cadets participate in a variety of ceremonial military traditions including the Presentation of Colors by the Joint JROTC Color Guard, toasts to honor military personnel, leaders and ball guests, and the selection of a military court. Senior cadets are also presented with certificates of participation from their program instructors to honor their JROTC commitment.
North Point senior cadet Kennedy Miller served as the mistress of ceremonies and Westlake High School senior cadet Vincent D’Haiti served as the master of ceremonies. Guests were welcomed by Board of Education Chairman Virginia McGraw. “No matter how many years you have worn the JROTC uniform, you have chosen an education steeped in traditions of honor, courage, patriotism and citizenship. You have learned the responsibilities of leadership and the value of following orders at the side of your instructors who have dedicated their lives to these core values,” McGraw said in addressing the room.
The toast portion of the ball featured references to the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, JROTC instructors and to all cadets in attendance. A toast was also held to honor military members who were missing in action or prisoners of war. Following the toasts, a celebratory dinner was held and senior cadets were called on to the floor by high school to receive their certificates.
At this year’s ball, students and staff honored Command Sgt. Maj. George Monk, an instructor at Maurice J. McDonough High School, for his service to Charles County Public Schools and the JROTC program. Command Sgt. Major Monk has helped to lead the Ram Battalion for the past 20 years and is retiring next month. During his time at McDonough, Command Sgt. Major Monk helped the JROTC unit receive a ranking of Honor Unit with Distinction, which is the highest ranking bestowed on a JROTC unit. During the ball, Dr. Hill also presented Command Sgt. Major Monk with a certificate of appreciation to honor his accomplishments.
After certificates were presented to all cadets, students and guests participated in two other military ball traditions: cake cutting and the presentation of the military court. The military court consists of a king and queen who are selected from students who have participated in their school’s JROTC program each year during their high school career. Board Chairman McGraw randomly selected the names. St. Charles High School senior Taylor Bell was this year’s queen and Corey Benton, a McDonough senior, was named king.
The JROTC program is available at all seven county high schools, and teaches students skills, values and good citizenship to the community. Participation in JROTC also provides advanced rank opportunities for students who plan to enter the military after high school. JROTC programs were first introduced in Charles County Public Schools in 1998 at Henry E. Lackey High School. Former longtime Board of Education member Col. Donald M. Wade, who passed away in 2014, was instrumental in launching the program for Charles County students. The ball is named in Wade’s honor to recognize his efforts in advocating for the JROTC program for students.
The programs at Lackey and North Point high schools represent the Air Force; the programs at McDonough and Thomas Stone High School represent the Army; La Plata High School, as well as Westlake, features a JROTC program that represents the Navy; and the program at St. Charles represents the Marine Corps. A total of 983 students are enrolled in JROTC programs this school year. These students also participate in a county drill meet, held annually, and co-curricular activities such as Color Guards, Armed and Unarmed drill teams, Armed and Unarmed exhibition drill teams, academic and field competitions.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.