Cartersville High football fans will see some students make school history before the Purple Hurricanes’ first home game.
Students in the high school’s inaugural JROTC program are set to present the colors for the first time during the National Anthem before the Friday, Sept. 6, game at Weinman Stadium.
The school began offering its students JROTC classes this year after the U.S. Army in 2018 gave its approval to fund the program.
Retired Army Col. Jeff Dickerson and Sgt. 1st Class John Snead head the new department.
Dickerson, a former top Georgia National Guard official, said he and Snead have 62 years of military experience between them.
He said JROTC only functions as a citizenship and leadership training program for high school students — in contrast to college ROTC programs.
JROTC does not train high school students to be soldiers nor does it require a commitment from them to enlist in the military as college programs do, Dickerson said.
Cartersville High School PrincipaI Shelley Tierce said she believed the program “will provide an opportunity for students to excel in many areas.”
“Our JROTC program will provide students with an opportunity to compete in academics and athletics while developing student leaders within our school and our Cartersville community,” Tierce said.
“Our program will provide students with rewarding opportunities that will benefit the student, our community, and our nation,” the principal said.
He said Cartersville’s inaugural program began with 95 cadets — which is an average size for a high school program — and anticipates it will grow by 50% next year as word gets out about what it offers.
Established Army JROTC units at other area high schools, such as North Paulding, helped the Cartersville group get established, Dickerson said.
School administrators made space available for JROTC classrooms in the school’s old field house building, Dickerson said.
He said Cartersville’s JROTC cadets have progressed quickly in the program in the short time they have been in it.
“I’ve watched these kids grow in just the two weeks school’s been in session,” he said recently.
The new program already has chosen its cadet leaders after they went through an interview process before a board of school and JROTC administrators, Dickerson said.
JROTC students will participate in such activities as presenting the flags during sporting events and working on projects with the American Legion and the March of Dimes, he said.
The program also has use of the school’s athletic facilities to train for sporting activities such as Raider team, which allows Cartersville JROTC students to compete against other high schools in a series of physical endurance and military-styled team activities.
Army JROTC is not new to some other schools in Bartow County. Cass and Adairsville high schools have offered the program for years, Dickerson said.
The Army limits its JROTC programs to about 1,700 schools nationwide based on federal funding levels. It can only open a new JROTC program when an existing one closes, its website stated.
It provides all uniforms and equipment to the school for the program, which means students did not have to pay for any of the basic supplies needed.
Tierce said Cartersville High applied for a new Army JROTC program in spring of 2018.
Marc Collier, director of the school’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, initiated the application process and used “multiple data resources” to provide the requested information for the initial application, Tierce said.
Army officials require such information as the school’s student family incomes; area adult literacy rates, the school’s graduation rate, available facilities, enrollment and more to determine if it should fund a new program, according to its website.
After the Army gave its approval, the Cartersville City School Board in August 2018 voted to approve its establishment.
The school board then approved the hiring of Dickerson and Snead, a 29-year Army veteran, earlier this year to lead the program.
Dickerson is a Dooly County native who retired in March after serving 33 years in the Army and Army National Guard.
He served as chief of the joint staff of the Georgia Department of Defense, which coordinates the actions of the Georgia Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Georgia State Defense Force.
Dickerson also was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and was part of the multi-national United Nations peacekeeping force following the Bosnia War in the early 1990s.
He said he wanted to lead high school students as a JROTC instructor because it was “always something I was interested in doing.”
“It was a renewed sense of purpose … of giving back,” Dickerson said.
He said others mentored him as he progressed through his education and military careers and he wanted the chance to do the same for a new generation.