Hope High School's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps — the only elective course that has survived from the school's now-defunct Leadership academy — remains as popular as ever among students.
In 2005, the Rhode Island Department of Education took control of the underperforming high school and divided it into three separate "learning communities" — Leadership, Arts and Information Technology. As of this year, the Leadership community's students and faculty have been merged into the other two.
The school, which now offers eight JROTC classes with a total of 157 students, is the only high school in Providence and one of 1,650 high schools nationwide to offer the program, said Lieutenant Colonel Raoul Archambault, senior instructor of JROTC at Hope.
The level of enrollment has "always been about the same," Archambault said, adding that it fluctuates between 130 and 180. JROTC is "open to all students, regardless of physical abilities or sexual orientation," Archambault said.
The course offers a sequence of military training programs that aims to develop six core abilities — the capacity for life-long learning, communication skills, responsibility for individual actions and choices, good citizenship, self-respect and critical thinking, according to the program's brochure.
The students also have the opportunity to participate in public demonstrations, interscholastic competitions, summer camps and community service activities. Outside of class, students, who take JROTC as one of their eight courses, can participate in the color guard and other drill teams. Each team has student commanders, while Archambault supervises the organization, participation and performance, he said.
While students are thankful that the program survives, at least one misses the old structure. With the elimination of the Leadership School, "the classes are much more packed," said Kayle Zarzuela, a Hope sophomore who moved to the Information Technology community from the Leadership School.
Though the JROTC program was open to students from the other schools earlier, the majority of participants were from Leadership, Zarzuela said. Now that there is a mix of students from two communities in JROTC classes, "there are now a lot of altercations, yelling and screaming," she said.
But Archambault said the change of school "doesn't really affect" JROTC.
"Before it was open to three communities, now it's open to two," he added. "It doesn't make any difference."
Some students agreed that they were not greatly affected by the new structure.
"It doesn't matter to me, as long as this program stays here," said Neki Fernandez, a sophomore and JROTC rifle commander.