Clayton Tennis knows about hard work and discipline.
The North Forsyth High School senior credits those skills and others like respect and loyalty to his four years in the schools Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.
“It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” said Tennis, who hopes to serve as a Navy officer.
The benefits of the schools ROTC program are no surprise to its leader, Maj. Charles Kelly, who has long touted the program at North Forsyth High as among the nation’s best.
But it’s not just Kelly. The school’s program was recently named the Southeast region’s most outstanding unit for the second year in a row by the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association.
“We’re considered the best of the best in the Southeast,” said Kelly. “It’s because of our kids. We’ve got outstanding kids. They work very, very hard. On our rifle team, the only school that beat us last year turned out to be the state champions.”
In addition to being named outstanding unit, the program has been named a National Naval Honor School for the eighth consecutive year, Kelly said.
According to Kelly, that means “we’re rated in the top 20 percent of all the Navy and Marine Corps schools nationwide.”
John Connor, another senior in the program, said the training will help him with his future career in the Marine Corps, to which he’s already enlisted. It’s had the same impact on students who have no plans to serve in the military, like senior Alex Agronow, who is planning a future in computer science or engineering.
The program’s recognition is a big deal for students like Tennis, who are hoping to be accepted to a military academy.
“It gives us the benefit of a JROTC nomination,” Tennis said. “That means our school can nominate people for what’s called a nomination, which is necessary for anybody who wants to get an appointment to the academy.
“Both of these awards also just help the credentials with their unit and help anybody who’s in our program when they’re applying to colleges and jobs or anything in life.”
Senior Neal Schulze said he’s glad to be a part of a program that has earned the prestigious honors, but shares the credit.
“It was the predecessors before us. It’s the cadets that will come after us,” he said.
The recognition is more than military training, Kelly said. It also looks at how many students are in the band and chorus, how many play sports as well as those that win rifle matches and other ROTC-related activities.
“Every June I have to turn in a report telling our headquarters how many hours we put into community service, how many students we had on the student council,” Kelly said. “They’re looking for how much the cadets are active in the school, not just ROTC.”
Kelly said the 247 students in the program at North Forsyth High “depict the flavor of an ROTC unit.”