LYNN — For the third time in almost two decades, the Lynn English Marine Corps Junior ROTC program has been voted No. 1 in its region.
The honor is part of the Marine Corps Reserve Association Award for being the best in the northeastern part of the country for community involvement, academics, drill and physical fitness in competition, marksmanship, and leadership, according to Sgt. Major Ken Oswald. Lynn English, which has about 130 JROTC members, defeated 65 schools with 200 to 300 members from Maine to West Virginia, all the way to Illinois and Michigan, said Oswald.
“If the people of America could see the cadets of Lynn English at work, America would be a better place,” Oswald said. “We have every ethnic background in the student body, from Italy, to El Savador, to Vietnam, and even Morocco, working together for the common goal of graduating high school and doing the right thing.”
The Lynn program first won the regional award in 2002 and again in 2006, with the most recent win for the 2018-2019 school year, said Oswald. In his 24 years of running the program, Oswald said the students have always gone above and beyond, on top of their schoolwork and personal schedules, to give back to communities all over Massachusetts, sometimes even in New York, Washington D.C., and Florida.
“When they walk into a room with their uniforms on, people know who they are and are impressed with them,” Oswald said. “They are little ambassadors for the good things coming out of the city of Lynn … People should realize these kids really are the best of the best and they give the ultimate sacrifice of donating to and helping anybody they possibly can.”
Oswald said his and Sgt. Gerald Goncalo’s goal from the very first day a new student walks in is to show them military structure so they can learn self-discipline. They tell newcomers it’s not about putting them on a military path, it’s about giving them the tools to become successful in whatever they choose to do in life.
“I joined this program to have better pathways to college, but I ended up gaining so much more,” said sophomore Cadet Sgt. Cody Beauchamp. “I completed 100 community service hours in one year.”
Cadet Sgt. Major Wereline Taveras said the program taught her to be more open-minded and gave her confidence in herself. The Lynn English senior was recently sworn into the Army National Guard and plans to leave right after graduation. She and fellow senior Cadet Lt. Col. Lillian Cardona, who also hopes to be sworn into the Guard, are the student leaders this year.
Before joining JROTC, Cardona said she wasn’t good at school. In four years, she learned how to discipline herself, which resulted in better academic grades, and found the confidence to stop being anti-social. The program shaped her up and showed her how to become a better person, she said.
When talking about the award, Taveras and Cardona were overcome with joy. They agreed the honor put them both at ease because it shows that, as leaders, they were doing what they needed to.
“I’m glad we are able to show our past leaders that the legacy they left behind is still going strong,” Taveras said. “To the leaders who will come after us, my advice to them is to be nice because sometimes being in charge of so many people can get to your head. You’ll need to remember that we are all high school kids going through different things. It’s important to have some empathy.”