After spending a year in distance learning, the Manual Arts High School Junior Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) went back to in-person learning and with the task to make an impact in their surrounding community.
The JROTC program at the High School, led by Chief Vernon Dayton, includes in its curriculum that students are required to conduct a Service-Learning Project, including meeting actual community needs by providing a meaningful service. The intent of the JROTC program is to provide the students with leadership skills, citizenship skills and life skills, and it includes physical fitness, lessons on U.S. History, leadership principles, and communication skills.
The effects of the pandemic were felt by everyone; from seniors who were asked to stay home, to the working-age population that was impacted professionally and financially, to students who saw their lives dramatically changed as they turned to their computers for schooling.
While some students made a smooth transition to distance learning, there were others that struggled technologically, psychologically, and most significantly, nutritionally as many counted on school meals to eat, and families’ budgets were impacted.
Students saw the need in their community, so when the 56 participating students ranging from 9th to 11th grade were asked what cause they would like to support, among the many projects they saw presented to them, they all voted on supporting the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
“Coming out of the pandemic, they were out of school for a month, and pretty much isolated, alone, restricted to go out,” said Chief Dayton. “But then, to come out of the pandemic and engage in this project and complete this task was quite extraordinary.”
The next task would be to come up with a way to raise money for their cause.
After voting on the cause, the students had to find a way to meet their goal. And so, the students chose to collect cans and bottles that they would sell to a recycling center, and would then donate the collected funds to the LA Regional Food Bank.
“All the students voted on which project would be the most beneficial to members of the community, and they all agreed on feeding the needy, especially prior to holidays. They chose a project that they thought would be the most beneficial, and one that would be most appreciated,” said Chief Dayton.
From late September to early December, students collected cans, water bottles, and glass bottles, but in order to reach their goal, they sought help from the rest of the school, including teachers and administrators. For almost three months, students not only collected recyclables they would see on the street but often asked teachers and administrators to save water bottles that they would then pick up. Other times, they would go around the school after breakfast and lunch breaks to collect any bottles or cans they can find. Unbeknownst to them, they were not only raising funds for their cause but helping clean up their community and their school, as well.
Once the project deadline came around, they raised a total of $1200 worth of recyclables. On December 13, the Food Bank’s Chief Development Officer Roger Castle was presented a check from the JROTC students, and he informed them that their donation was equivalent to 4,800 meals.
“When it was mentioned how many meals this would provide, there were ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘wows,’ and that’s when it really hit home,” Chief Dayton said. “For them, it’s a lot, and it really is a lot. They know they’ve done something that’s extraordinary.”
Everyone can make an impact in their community. Thanks to community service performed by the Manual Arts High School JROTC, and the generosity of the community, the Food Bank can make an impact in thousands of lives. If you are in a position to do so, please donate.