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Golden Valley ROTC stays put

Hart board keeps program at high school.

Posted: April 5, 2008 1:13 a.m.
Updated: June 6, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Students from Golden Valley High School's Air Force Junior ROTC program practice a sword drill last month. The Hart district board this week restored funding for the program.

It's officials - Golden Valley High School's ROTC program isn't going anywhere.

The Hart district board room erupted in cheers and applause Wednesday night when, after a lengthy discussion, board members voted to reinstate Golden Valley's Air Force Junior ROTC program.

The William S. Hart Union High School District board had previously voted to combine Golden Valley's ROTC program with Valencia High School's program as part of the $10.4 million in budget adjustments needed to meet the state's cuts in funding for education.

"I'm really happy. It's a great program - I'm not saying that Valencia isn't any good, but Golden Valley's a really great program and it gives us the chance to be a family," said Jose Gomez, a Golden Valley ROTC cadet and a junior at Academy of the Canyons junior.

Several ROTC cadets and parents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, with most asking that the Golden Valley program stay where it is. Cadet Randy Harper told the board that if the two programs were combined, there would be so many members that cadets would not have the same opportunities to be leaders.

"I will not be going to Valencia if the program is moved," Harper said. Board president Gloria Mercado-Fortine was concerned that the new Valencia ROTC building, which has a capacity to serve 250 cadets, was not being fully utilized. The Valencia ROTC currently has 112 members, with 69 cadets at Golden Valley.

"That building, that we spent a lot of money on, is being greatly under-utilized," Mercado-Fortine said.

But in the end, the board was won over by the cadets' numerous success stories, and the fact that Golden Valley has signed up 127 recruits for next year.

Cadet Antonio Acuna, a Bowman High School senior, was one of the corps' success stories. He choked up as he spoke to the board.

"Before the corps, I can honestly say I was a problem student," Acuna said. "It really changed my life to see that I could be a leader and become a positive role model."

Acuna told the board and the crowd gathered that he will be leaving for the U.S. Navy on June 30, and that he hoped budget cuts wouldn't keep the Golden Valley ROTC program from helping other students like him.

"This program builds the cadets' self-esteem and their confidence," said ROTC parent Brandy Brooks. "Look at how hard they are fighting to keep their family intact."

Board member Paul Strickland made the motion to reinstate the program, and Dennis King seconded the motion.

"You are such a breath of fresh air and an inspiration. I second the motion," King said.

Cadets hugged one another and some cried when the motion was approved.

"I hugged my dad and my boyfriend and some of the other cadets, who might as well be family," said Canyon junior Ariel Navia. "It's my senior year next year, and I really wanted to spend it at Golden Valley."


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