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NJROTC curriculum is offering its students more than military training

Cadets have streamed many live events in the community as part of their growing audio/visual program


by: KEVIN SPERL - Jacob Mickel sets up the game clock before the start of a Crook County High School Freshman basketball game.

When the Japanese national wrestling team came to Crook County High School, it was touted as a tremendous cultural opportunity for the school.

Wrestling Coach Jake Hoffman had this to say about the event: “What a great opportunity for our kids to learn about a different culture and to see some of Japan’s best.”

And, thanks to the high school's Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC), families of the visiting wrestlers were able to take part as well, from halfway around the world.

Under the watchful eye of Master Chief Danny Jackson, his cadets were live-streaming the event to the internet, garnering over 300 viewers.

“We are doing the best we can to advertise our community,” said Jackson. “If it is happening in Crook County, we want to be there.”

Jackson's charges have streamed freshman, junior varsity and varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball games, varsity wrestling meets, and their own drill competitions.

They recently attended the Reser’s Tournament of Champions, in Hillsboro, to cover the school's wrestling team.

“We had 24 hours’ notice that we were going, and I ended up bringing three freshmen with me,” explained Jackson. “We managed to live-stream all three days of the tournament.”

Cadets Jacob Mickel, Tyler Shierk, Bryan Dominguez-Cruz, and Ethan Draper are all first-year high school students. But, their knowledge of broadcasting, equipment set up, and the internet belies their years.

“I have always liked computers and always knew what to do with them,” said Mickel. “We get to go on trips, upload images, set up gyms for basketball and other sports, and set up the sound board in the school auditorium.”

For three years, the team has streamed via iHigh.com, which, according to the web site, “provides schools, colleges and other youth-related organizations with free web tools and video streaming that connect sports and activities to the premier Global Youth Network.”

And the students are making their presence known.

“I recently received a letter from iHigh naming Crook County's site as one of its top 200 broadcasters,” said Jackson, proudly. “That’s not a bad milestone for a small town team with no funding.”

Not content with that recognition, the team has set a goal of 1 million views by June 1, having already eclipsed the 800,000 mark.

Students producing the broadcasts are enrolled in Jackson's audio/visual class, where they learn to maintain the equipment, upload still photographs, and re-publish news articles written about the school.

People's perception of ROTC students may include images of uniforms, marching in step, and being recruited into a branch of military service after high school.

Jackson works to dispel that image.

“Our vision as teachers is to educate the students,” he said, acknowledging that educators must adapt to today’s students. “I’ve been here for 19 years, and students today are very different than back then.”

A 20-year veteran of the Navy, Jackson came to Prineville to start the NJROTC program, and has been doing so for 19 years.

And it's not only the students who are learning.

“I prefer pencil and paper, that’s my technology,” said Jackson, with a smile. “But it definitely is not for today’s high school students. We want to teach, and as a result, the kids teach us.”

Part of Jackson’s motivation for the audio/visual curriculum is to offer things that keep kids interested, giving them a reason to come to school.

“In the 1960’s, any kid that wanted a job could get one,” he said. “That isn’t the case anymore. We need to constantly find things to keep their interest.”

And, iHigh.com is one of them.

Dominguez-Cruz enjoys being an ambassador of the school.

“When we are out streaming, a lot of people ask us what we are doing, and we get a lot of people watching the stream,” he said. “That makes me feel great, as I get to support my school and bond with my friends.”

For Shierk, broadcasting comes easily, and his future goals are pretty clear.

“I would love to be a cameraman for the Trail Blazers or the Timbers,” he said. Although Shierk is hoping to attain a college degree in civil engineering, he doesn’t discount broadcasting.

“I just might end up in media,” he said. “You always get to know what is going on.”

The students consider some of their best work to be the Reser's tourney, which had well over 30,000 views, and the Japanese wrestling event. A third event that they’re proud of is their coverage of the Tyler Pierce Celebration of Life. Pierce, a 2010 CCHS graduate, was killed Feb. 1, in an ATV accident.

“We had over 6,000 views for that,” said Shierk, “It was held the weekend of the snow storm and a lot of people couldn’t get to the event.”

Congressional funding for NJROTC requires schools to maintain an enrollment of either 100 cadets, or 10 percent of the student body. Jackson easily achieves that, boasting an enrollment of 138 cadets out of 800 students.

“We say yes to everyone who wants to join,” he said, boasting that he now teaches students whose parents were in his program.

“For those who think we brainwash these kids, we do,” he said, “We brainwash them to stay in school, select their friends wisely, and to make good choices.”

Jackson is quick to tell his charges that, upon graduation, he wants them to leave Prineville, grow up, and make positive contributions. But, he encourages them to return and give back to the community that supported them.

“We want these kids to have honor, courage, and understand commitment,” he said. “Just follow through on what you say you will do. I could brag about these kids for 50 years.”



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