NEW LENOX – Lincoln-Way students wanting to know firsthand the experience of being a Air Force JROTC cadet came to Central High School for a camp that introduces them to a life of discipline, teamwork and leadership.
Kyra Baltas, a Lincoln-Way West senior, was one of more than 100 students at Central on Monday doing physical exercises and games as part of the JROTC summer drill camp. The camp is open to all students.
Although not new to JROTC, Baltas knows the program is accepting of every student who wants to join.
“It’s one big family. Everybody, no matter who you are, you can come and you’re accepted and you can be who you are, and you’ll find people like you,” she said.
The summer drill camp has been held for nine years at Lincoln-Way and is a way to introduce students to the core values of JROTC, which in the words of Master Sgt. Dan Schliffka, are discipline, teamwork and leadership.
The drill camp promotes discipline like no other, he said.
“These guys can learn this all four years they’re with us, and they apply that whether it’s at work or at home,” Schliffka said.
The camp, which lasts from Monday to Friday, includes activities such as marching skills, water sports, capture the flag, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, tug of war, softball and many others. Schliffka said competition is needed for each of the flights, or student groups, within JROTC.
“It really promotes a lot of teamwork. It really helps people to step up with the leadership skills,” he said.
But the benefits of JROTC extend beyond the skills needed to succeed in the program. Brianna Fasano, who graduated from Lincoln-Way Central this year, said the program helps with scholarships and networking for college.
When she joined, she instantly made friends.
“You learn so many new things that you didn’t think you’d be interested in but you do realize you actually can find a common interest with all these people. There’s so many ways to get involved,” Fasano said.
Even though she’s an alumna, Fasano was at the drill camp Monday to help out upperclass students and ensure the camp runs smoothly.
“We like to come back because we miss everybody,” she said.
The first day of drill camp is mostly students getting together and learning about each other and doing some physical exercise, Fasano said. The games and team-building activities help build camaraderie, she said.
The drill camp shows the students how quickly and easy it is to make friends, especially for incoming freshmen nervous about their first experience going to high school, Fasano said. The camp introduces them to how high school is, like as opposed to the stereotypes, she said.
“You really learn that from being in ROTC. You meet some really good people and they become lifelong friends,” she said.
Tim Lutz, a Lincoln-Way East senior who is a JROTC group commander at the school, said he was interested in joining the program since knowing about it from his cousins when he was a child, although he didn’t know too much about it.
He said he learned it’s a program where high school cliques don’t matter.
“Once I got in, I realized how truly amazing it is. I’ve gotten to meet people from all different groups that typically don’t mingle in high school,” he said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Lincoln-Way Air Force JROTC Summer Drill Camp
WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday
WHERE: Lincoln-Way Central High School, 1801 E. Lincoln Highway, New Lenox.