SELMA – It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

That’s the sentiment cadets in Selma High’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps expressed after being asked why they’re willing to show up, sometimes before day break, to assist with community events such as U.S. flag ceremonies, school festivals, marches and senior activities.

Selma High School partnered up with the United States Marine Corps in 1994 to establish its Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. There are 261 MCJROTC programs divided among five regions nationwide.

In wrapping up its first semester this school year, instructor Master Sgt. Reynaldo A. Cruz said the cadets are proud to represent Selma High and the MCJROTC program.

“They take great pride in being a Bear,” he said.

Cadet 1st Lt. Lucinda Soto says the program has not only helped her break out of her comfort zone, but has taught her leadership skills as well.

“When I was younger, I was really quiet and I kept to myself. However, when I joined the MCJROTC program I was introduced to leadership positions within the program. I had never involved myself in something like this before, so it was new.”

Soto is now a senior and is second in command as the program’s company executive officer. It’s a position of responsibility she never thought she’d hold.

“It’s almost odd, in a way, to come from a quiet person who keeps to herself to someone who leads so many people. It’s a big responsibility to hold such a high position. Other cadets are looking up to me and the other leadership for guidance.”

Soto says since so much advance planning goes into various community events in which they assist, challenges can arise if something is forgotten.

“Even with these issues, we always do our best for these events. In the end, when we see how our program can help out our community, that’s what makes it all worth the hard work.”

Soto has career goals outside the military, but still thinks the program helps students develop skills they’ll use for the future. Soto says she’ll likely go on to Reedley College after graduation and then transfer to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles

“I like art and love playing video games and watching movies, so I’ve decided to pursue a career in video game animation/development.”

If others are considering joining the MCJROTC, Soto says not only will the student benefit, but the community will also.

“I’d say go for it. In my life, it’s been such a beneficial experience. The thought of the military may push people away from the program, but it’s more than just that. The program isn’t meant to recruit students, but instead to develop students to well-rounded citizens. There are many things you can become involved in within the program, such as marksmanship or drill team. It’s an eye-opening experience. It might not be for everyone, but I would definitely try it before you decide.”

Cadet Staff Sgt. Jaime Garcia has been enrolled in the MCJROTC for the past three years and says the program is known for its hard-working cadets.

“It’s not easy being a cadet,” Garcia said. “MCJROTC taught me how to be a leader, be responsible and to be organized. I learn how to be organized after being in charge of a community service which is not very easy. You must set everything on time so the event goes well. At end of the day, it’s all worth it after seeing smiles on the people who attended the event.”

Even though the cadets are on winter break, several competed at a marksmanship event, the Crossman Challenge in Las Vegas, in late December. The cadets are already booked to participate in a number of community service projects when school is in session in January at Garfield, Wilson and Indianola elementary schools.

Here’s a partial list of their activities this school year:

  • Selma High’s MCJROTC Color Guard presented Colors to commence the groundbreaking of the United Health Center of the San Joaquin Valley newest facility in Selma on Sept. 8.
  • Cadets showed up Sept. 14 before school to set up tables, chairs and stations for the annual Selma Senior Resource Fair luncheon at the Senior Center. Numerous organizations such as local hospitals, the Senior Companion Program, Adventist Health, Amdal in Home Care and others needed booths and chairs to participate. This was not a typical uniform day; however, the cadets still volunteered their service before attending their first period of class.
  • Cadets gathered at 5 a.m. Sept. 16 to head out to the Fresno Scottish Society’s 40th Annual Highland Games at Kearney Park in Fresno. This gathering consisted of many events that include a pageant show, a magic show, a sheep herding exhibition, ammunition/artillery demonstrations, Scottish bagpipe performances and heavy Scottish athletics. It was a long day of assisting Fresno Scottish Society members and its vendors with setting up tents, supervising parking, trash/recycling collection, programs, children games, transportation and judging of the many athletic events. A total of 97 cadets attended earning 14 hours of community service hours that day.
  • The cadets assisted during the Sept. 23 Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life block party at Ringo Park. They helped with setting up and breaking down tables, chairs and tents before and after the event. During the block party, they monitored activities, prepared food and completed various other tasks that allowed other civic and faith organizations to focus on educating and reaching out to residents.
  • The program sent two teams of four shooters to participate in Parlier High’s Shoulder to Shoulder Marksmanship match also on Sept. 23. They took 1st and 7th place overall in team competition. As individuals, Cadet Gunnery Sgt. Gabriela Sanchez-Rios finished in 1st place, Cadet Gunnery Sgt. Samantha Louie took 2nd place and Cadet Sgt. Estefanie Lopez took 8th place.
  • On Sept. 30, the MCJROTC Color Guard led the 88th annual Caruthers District Fair Parade. The parade showcases the community’s harvest and has grown to include decorated floats, middle school and high school bands, vintage and modern day cars and equestrian showmanship.
  • On Oct. 27, Washington Elementary hosted its annual carnival that was organized by teachers, staff and parents. The Selma H.S. MCJROTC Program assisted by setting up stations, staffing the various kids’ events and with the clean-up afterward.
  • From Nov. 13-20, cadets supported the local Operation Christmas Child project by collecting, labeling and loading presents headed to a collection center in Fresno. Samaritan’s Purse would then distribute shoeboxes filled with presents to children worldwide.
  • The SHS varsity marksmanship team took 1st place overall as a team at the Nov. 18 Ray Pickett Invitational Marksmanship Competition at Fontana High. The team includes Cadet Sgt. Estefanie Lopez. Varsity member Cadet Cpl. Nicholas Mullins placed 4th in the prone position and 5th in the kneeling position. Cadet Sgt. Gabriela Sanchez-Rios placed 1st in the standing position and 2nd overall as an individual. Cadet Sgt. Samantha Louie placed 3rd in the standing position, 1st place in the prone position and 1st place overall as an individual. The junior varsity marksmanship team of cadets PFC Leslie Espinosa, Cpl. Samuel Lopez, PFC Mario Dominguez and PFC Claudia Orozco took 6th place overall.
  • The Color Guard presented the Nations Colors for the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “God Bless America” on Dec. 2 for the American Ex-Prisoner of War Organization’s Christmas luncheon in Fresno. In addition to the members, more than 50 members of the West Coast Veterans Family Home and seven Ex-POWs were in attendance. Some of these veterans were captured during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The oldest Ex-POW present was 102.
  • Selma High’s MCJROTC program finished in 2nd place competing against 11 teams during the Dec. 2 CECA Soccer Competition at Reedley High. Nine Central Valley JROTC programs competed in the double-elimination tournament

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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