The Mt. Juliet High School JROTC program, affiliated with the United States Marine Corps, is one of the school’s more popular activities. This year, the four top leaders are seniors and spent the past four years learning and leading the rest of the troops.
The program is led by retired Maj. Al Intilli and Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Clark. Intilli is the Senior Marine Instructor while Clark is a Marine Instructor.
Clark is a graduate of MJHS and joined the Marines after graduation. He served primarily as a Combat Arms Field Artilleryman. He was also a Drill Instruction at Parris Island, S.C. and the Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va.
He retired in 2018 after 25 years of service. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The four student leaders are Cadet Captain Hailee Servais, who is the Commanding Officer and Company Commander. Second in command is Company Executive Commander Cierra Smith, while Cadence Perry is the Company First Sergeant and Gunnery Sergeant Patrick Holderby is the fourth in command.
Servais said that she enjoys being a part of the JROTC because, “you can build new friendships with people with similar interests and learn a lot of life skills. The program has provided me a lot of leadership skills that can be put to use in and outside of the classroom. I have also built a lot of relationships that I would not have had without this program.”
Smith said she joined to “learn what leadership is and become more involved in the school. It has helped me become more confident as a person and I have learned how to bond with other people like they are my own family.”
For those who are unsure of joining the program, Smith said the MJHS program is “welcoming to everybody. Cadets will have to learn hard lessons, but they will not be alone; when they mess up, there will be a family of fellow cadets to pick them up and help them back onto the right path. The cadet leadership is chosen for a reason, and they make sure their peers are taken care of.”
Perry, said she would recommend students “joining JROTC because it is a unique program that offers things you would not find anywhere else. It teaches important life skills you do not get in a normal classroom, and the family bond with the other cadets and instructors is something I never thought I would have, but now I feel so connected and accepted.”
Perry competed in the regional American Legion Oratorical competition last month, representing American Legion Post 281 of Mt. Juliet. She her eight-minute speech was about her appreciation of the Constitution and its significance in establishing freedoms in America. She also had a second speech about the 22nd Amendment (term limits for the President).
She received a $100 cash award from the American Legion Department of Tennessee for her speeches.
Holderby said that “the program is only as good as you make it. While you can get by with the bare minimum, the instructors and your fellow cadets will always do their best to do whatever they can to help motivate and build you into a better person. Whether that be by public speaking and presenting, or confidence through competition like the Drill Team, Rifle Team, and Physical Training team. This program had at least one way to make everyone better.”
The program at MJHS was established in 1995.
Clark said that there are an average of 100 students who are enrolled each year, however, because of COVID and distance learning, they had 86 students enrolled this year.
Students receive elective credits and additional credits toward graduation requirements, including lifetime wellness, government, physical education, personal finance and occupational safety and health administration certifications.
“Approximately 75 percent of the MCJROTC cadets graduating seniors continue to higher education after high school,” Clark said. “The program enhances the image of the military in the eyes of the community by providing a chance for success to the nation’s youth.