Army program kicks off at Franklin High

Published 8:26 am Friday, January 22, 2010

FRANKLIN—In less than two weeks, more than 60 Franklin High School students will begin National Defense Cadet Corps classes, a U.S. Army leadership program, thanks to private donations.

“This is a funded program through the efforts of our community leaders,” said Dr. Rick Clemons, the assistant superintendent of Franklin City Schools. “We want to make sure that they get the accolades and the recognition they deserve for having that drive and that vision to help bring this program to the city of Franklin for our students.”

The non-profit group Franklin-Southampton Futures was instrumental in bringing together the resources necessary to start the program.

“It’s been a group effort … a community effort and we’re thrilled to be able to be a part of it,” said Lynne Rabil of Franklin-Southampton Futures.

The NDCC is similar to the more widely known Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, however, the NDCC relies on private funding while the government covers most of the funding for the JROTC.

Franklin High remains on a waiting list for a JROTC program.

“Because of the size of the school, it probably would’ve been very difficult for Franklin to get in a position where they would move up on that list to be considered for an actual unit,” Clemons said.

However, with an NDCC program in place, officials hope that the school will be more seriously considered for the JROTC.

Retired Lt. Col. Ben Hudson is the senior Army instructor for the school’s NDCC program; he previously served in the same capacity at a high school in North Carolina. He said he was drawn to being an instructor in the program because he had a desire to mentor young people.

“It was an opportunity for me because I wanted to do something with the high school kids,” he said.

Hudson spent more than 24 years serving in the U.S. Army before retiring in 2008. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. Clemons said that he hopes students in the program will look to Hudson as a role model.

“We’re very pleased with the academic credential that he brings to the table in addition to the military credential that he brings to the table,” Clemons said of Hudson.

The program is funded entirely through community donations, Rabil said. She said nearly $250,000 has been raised so far.

“Our commitment was for two years, but our goal is to fund it as long as it’s needed before JROTC kicks in,” she said.

Although nearly $250,000 has been raised, Rabil said Futures is not done “knocking on doors.”

“That funding is dependent upon how many students are in the program,” she said. “It’s a fluid estimate of costs and that’s why we’re not content to sit back. We want as many students in the program as we can have.”

Local schools with established JROTC programs have already donated between 75 and 80 uniforms to Franklin High to start the program.

Lawrence Whiting, principal of Franklin High, said there is high interest in the program among students.

“The classes are full,” he said.

Whiting said a JROTC program has a “large impact” on a high school.

“You can literally walk down the hall and tell the difference between someone who’s in ROTC and someone who’s not,” he said. “It builds leadership, and it builds confidence in them, and I think that’s really what I’m looking forward to.”

Classes begin on Feb. 4.