Jim was the kind of guy that worked hard, the kind of guy with real integrity. He was the kind of guy that people knew was going somewhere. Jim could have been a doctor or a politician. He was smart and resourceful, but he came from a poor neighborhood where people only dreamed about the chance to go to college and create a future. Jim achieved like no other of his classmates, securing a scholarship that was good, but with the rising cost of tuition, not good enough.
So Jim went to school anyway and decided to get a job as well. It would make up for the gap of tuition not covered and give him a little scratch to peck off for his lifestyle. But Jim still found that he was on the short side of the financial world, and life happened, which costs lots of money. To support his sick mother, Jim was forced to take a second job and did not have the time or money to afford his tutelage at the university. Jim dropped out of school. Eventually, his ailing mother passed on, and Jim wasted away in a dead-end job until he became addicted to painkillers and laid down for a really long nap on his 40th birthday.
Jim is not a real person. If he was, that sad story would not necessarily have happened because Jim could have taken an option rarely explored by many students. Jim could have contracted himself to the Army Reserve Officers Training Corp. program.
The Army ROTC program affiliates itself with schools like Missouri Western, Benedictine College, UMKC and Northwest in Maryville, along with several other satellite schools.
Missouri Western has about 20 students in the ROTC program that has had a number of achievements over the last year.
â€œCadet Guy Stark, a two year, he just completed Air Assault School,â€ said Master Sgt. Ken Jiles, a military science instructor at Western. â€œHe was learning to go into combat out of helicopters.â€
Any student can take a leadership training class, but to be contracted by the program, there are a few minimum standards. Students must be less than 35 years old, pass a physical examination and complete an ACT with a score of no lower than 21.
â€œWhen they come in as freshmen and they know they want to do this, the first thing they do is take the basic leadership courses,â€ Jiles said. â€œBy junior year, they go off to LVAC and learn the more physical aspects like field training, patrolling and repelling and combat water survival.â€
Master Sgt. Grant, instructor at Western, dispelled some of the fears that students may have about joining ROTC.
â€œI think the biggest misconception is that we are like basic training,â€ Grant said. â€œStudents come in thinking that we will yell in their faces and make them drop and do push ups. We donâ€™t do that.â€
One of the many opportunities the program creates for students is a chance to travel. Even on campus they rarely stay sedentary.
â€œThey donâ€™t just sit in the classroom,â€ Grant said. â€œWe rarely stay in the classroom at all.â€
Last year several students had a chance to travel on a much broader range. Fifteen cadets went to Little Bighorn, Mont. And one cadet went to Korea. Cadet Ferguson, a Western senior, has had his fair share of travels.
â€œI like to travel,â€ Ferguson said. â€œIâ€™ve been to Italy, Iraq, Czechoslovakia and through Germany.â€
Despite the challenge and what would appear to be a work intensive class load, odds are good that a student could end up as an army officer.
â€œWith ROTC, youâ€™re given a more than fair shot at becoming an officer,â€ Ferguson said. â€œAs long as you work at what you are doing and stay motivated.â€
ROTC has benefits that are even deeper than just a career with the military.
â€œSomeone that graduates from college, thatâ€™s great,â€ Grant said. â€œSomeone graduates from college as an officer they just upgraded their marketability by tenfold.â€
But is the real world after college a surprise to a graduate of the ROTC program?
â€œI think the ROTC program is the epitome of applied learning,â€ Grant said. â€œThese people are actually seeing what they are getting themselves into. When we talk of applied learning at Missouri Western, we kind of lift our chests a little. We know we are sending people out doing exactly what their jobs will be. They will be getting a taste of it.â€
So, if you are in a bind and thinking of dropping out of school due to finances, remember the story does not have to end up like Jimâ€™s. Jim could have ended up contracted and trained with skills in leadership to succeed in an ever-changing world. â€œWe have scholarship money just sitting out there,â€â€™ Jiles said. â€œWe end up having to give it back because people donâ€™t take advantage of the opportunities that they have.â€