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JROTC honored at North
Award fourth for schools program
Members of the North Forsyth High JROTC program perform a drill during a competition in 2007. - photo by File photo
North Forsyth High School’s JROTC program has become the state’s first to be named a National Naval Honor School four years in a row.

Senior Marine Instructor Mac Kelly, a retired Marine, said he is proud of his students, but has already started working on goals for this year’s program.

“One of the military phrases is, ‘The only easy day was yesterday.’ That’s sort of the way the students take it,” he said. “We won it last year, so let’s get on with the mission ahead and see what we can do now.”

The honor is given to the top 20 percent of the nation’s 800 JROTC programs, said Kelly, who started the unit at North 14 years ago.

“The program is extremely successful and continues to develop students into outstanding leaders, not only within the school, but also within the community,” said North Principal Beth Hebert.

“Our JROTC graduates have left us to attend nationally recognized universities, military academies and also serve our country in every branch of our nation’s armed forces. Our instructors and cadets are truly deserving of this prestigious recognition.”

Though based at North, the 152 students enrolled in the program come from all five county high schools. About 16 of those students live in another district but attend North because of JROTC.

To receive the honor, students are reviewed in a variety of areas, including maintaining grade-point average, community service and how the group operates as a unit.

“They look at the whole ROTC program, so each individual student has some input,” Kelly said. “I can help manage their accomplishments, I can help lead them in the right direction, but they’re the ones that have got to do the work.

“This isn’t anything that I’ve done ... this is all them.”

Kelly said while his students have earned the honor the past four years, it took a decade to first receive it.

“We finally broke the code on how to get things mobilized,” he said. “We found a way to get some of the students more involved. We’ve always had good students here.

“I put more hours in here than I ever did when I was on active duty in the Marine Corps as far as day-to-day operations, and it makes me feel like my time was well spent.”

Kelly said part of the reason his students have been consistently strong is what he calls their “self-perpetuating machine.”  

The seniors help the juniors, who train the sophomores, who are mentors to the freshmen, he said. The loyalty to training has maintained the high performance, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

“We have a very ambitious schedule this year. It’s our most ambitious ever and our students seem to be up for it,” Kelly said.

“I have every reason to believe our students this year are just as good as before, so I’m hoping to go for a fifth year.”