BERLIN – Stephen Decatur High School’s naval science students are seeking the community’s support as they work to reinvigorate the longstanding program.
Just as they’ve supported the community for years, performing color guard duties at countless events and teaching local children how to handle the American flag, the teenagers in Decatur’s naval science program are now hoping the community will support them as they work to raise money for much needed equipment and scholarships.
“We want to participate in the community,” said Commander Steve Sisk. “The better we’re equipped the better we represent the school and all we’re trying to do.”
Sisk, who took over the program this year, is currently teaching close to 70 students in the naval science program with the help of Staff Sergeant Josh August. Though commonly referred to as NJROTC (Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps), the program at Stephen Decatur is actually an NNDCC (National Naval Defense Cadet Course) because it doesn’t meet the enrollment requirement of NJROTC. As an NNDCC, the program at Decatur receives no financial support from the Navy and is entirely funding by the school system. That, Sisk explained, is why the students and the boosters group that supports them are working to raise money.
“It’s expensive to run an outfit like this,” Sisk said.
While the school system has provided uniforms and equipment, some of that equipment needs to be replaced. The students currently have access to fewer than a dozen functioning air rifles, for example. Students training for 15 upcoming marksmanship competitions share the available air rifles, readjusting them each time they’re passed from one student to another. New rifles cost $600 each.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Sisk said.
There are also summer camps and additional programs offered to the naval science students outside of school. While some Decatur students were able to attend a summer program in West Virginia last year, not all were able to afford it. Sisk would love to be able to have spare funding to provide scholarships in situations like those.
“We could make sure everybody has an equal opportunity to participate,” he said.
And so this year the program’s supporters are launching a concerted fundraising effort. In addition to seeking financial support from local organizations, they plan to host fundraisers throughout the year. The first of those will be Oct. 23 at Chipotle in West Ocean City from 4-8 p.m.
Naval science students are hopeful the community will show its support for the program. Whether they’re headed for the military or not, the students say there are numerous benefits to participating.
“The program is centered around the concept of leadership,” senior Michael Scott said.
Scott has no plans of entering the military. He wants to be a science teacher. He knew, however, that the ROTC program would give him leadership skills and show him how to work well with others.
“I’ve learned that sense of leadership and better communication skills that will help me be a teacher,” he said. “I’ve learned how to get things done in a specific way to help people succeed.”
Naval science freshmen Romy McVicker and Stephen Lowe do have plans to pursue careers in the military.
“I joined to prepare myself,” McVicker said.
In the program at Decatur, students focus on academics, physical fitness and drills. While the program is rigorous, the students say it’s enjoyable.
“It can be really fun,” McVicker said, pointing out that a game of kickball had been a recent physical fitness activity. “It’s not as serious as people might think.”
Senior Hannah Mills agreed.
“It’s not just a normal classroom setting,” she said. “You’re a team and you work together. You’re like a family.”