Hollywood High School's JROTC closing down after 100 years

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Hollywood High's JROTC closing down after 100 years
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Hollywood High School's Junior ROTC Program is ending after 100 years, and officials say funding is just one reason for the beloved program's demise.

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Hollywood High School's Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps Program is ending after 100 years, and officials say funding is just one reason for the beloved program's demise.

The JROTC Program was established in 1917 and is the second oldest program in the Los Angeles area.

"Recruiters recruit. My job is to motivate, period. That's the end of the sentence. Our job is to motivate them to be a better citizen. That's what's written," describes retired Army Lt. Col. Ted McDonald, the program's director.

JROTC held its 100-year-old awards banquet to honor cadets on Wednesday. It was the group's last such event, because Hollywood High School is cutting the program.

Samuel Dovlatian, assistant principal of Hollywood High, said lack of district funds and sustainability this past year is only one reason for the program's demise. The other is simple.

"This is the district and the state saying we need to prepare our students for college and careers and at this moment, the JROTC program doesn't fit within the A through G curriculum and course work guidelines," only explained.

One cadet said JROTC not only helps students get into college but makes them stand out.

"We also give out community service hours for college. We make sure on your college resumes, even if we just put ROTC, colleges already look at it as - wow, you have leadership," said Battalion Cmdr. Benedict Jhu, a JROTC Cadet Captain.

Staff Sgt. Gina Babayan, a sophomore who has only been in the program for one year, said her heart dropped when she heard it was coming to an end.

"It made me come to a realization as to who I was as a person and just to know that a family is going to be broken, and just, it didn't feel right," she said.

What isn't clear is what happens to these students post cadet life.

"It's a great program that just brought me so many great experiences," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Flores, a senior.

The program is dear to McDonald, who was near tears when talking about its end.

"I'm so upset I'm about to cry, and I'm an old man, you know because I'm afraid I'm going to lose here, and I can't get help," he said.

The deadline to come up with the funding is June 30. JROTC supporters still have a flicker of hope, though the school has officially ended the program.