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JROTC in Palm Beach County helping mold America's next great leaders

Posted: 5:29 AM, Aug 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-02 09:30:32Z

There are 14 JROTC programs in Palm Beach County helping to build the leaders of tomorrow.

Nearly 400 students participate in JROTC at Forest High School, helping set a high standard at the school.

Three seniors and retired soldiers run the program at Forest Hill High School.

"I feel like I'm making a difference. I'm gaining something, but I'm also here helping my community, helping out my school with anything," said senior Bruce Suarez.

Capt. Hector Echevarria helps run the JROTC and makes it clear this is not a military enlistment but a mentorship program with certain benchmarks to meet.

It is all meant to help students and teachers.

"It gives me an opportunity to give back to these kids, mold some of these kids that we are all going to eventually rely on to run this country," said Echevarria.

The students in the program stand out from their peers at school.

 “What kind of looks to you get of the uniform, the medals?” asked reporter Mike Trim.

People call me the Christmas tree cause when I walk all you hear is the medals clinking," said Nicole, a participant in the JROTC program.

The medals she wears are earned for her marksmanship, academics and physical fitness standards.

"They are a little frightened at first, but as time goes they understand we're human also and we're here to help them and motivate and train them," said First Sgt. Antonio Correa

The hard work pays off.

For JROTC participant Nathan Smith, he enjoys seeing veterans at public events look at his fellow cadets. 

"All those veterans are looking at us and saying, they have the same values we do.  Those are the kind of kids that have the right stuff, that mindset, that discipline that leadership potential, just a spark of greatness that JROTC can instill in people and they're proud of it," said Smith.

The teens are proud of a program that is preparing them for the upcoming school year and life.