By DEBRA VAUGHN
Oak Harbor High School military science students got a real-life civics lesson and a gold star from Olympia lawmakers.
The state house unanimously approved a resolution in February honoring the accomplishments of the Oak Harbor Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
Nearly 30 students were on hand to witness the honor from the house gallery and learn what they could about how state government works. The color guard also presented the colors during the opening ceremony.
“Even though we are students, our voice can still be heard,” said Oak Harbor High School junior Mikayla Hobbs. “It was nice that our hard work in the community was recognized and praised by our state legislature.”
Her classmate, Anthony Colston, remarked the experience “was absolutely worth waking up at 3 in the morning.”
Rep. Dave Hayes introduced the resolution, in part because of a proposed bill last month that would have inadvertently made it difficult for local students to take NJROTC. That bill eventually died in committee, in part because students from Oak Harbor traveled to Olympia to testify.
“The fact they were put in a position to defend the program — that’s what sparked me to do it,” Hayes said.
The students got a tour of the capitol grounds and a chance to meet Hayes and Sen. Barbara Bailey. The lawmakers were impressed with the students, who came in uniform. The students asked thoughtful questions and were concerned about having “proper military bearing” during a photo with the lawmakers, Hayes said.
“It’s clear whatever those teachers are teaching is sinking in,” he said.
The bill that would have lowered military science participation was pushed by an advocacy group representing physical education teachers, Hayes said. While the bill was well-intentioned, aimed at getting kids more active, it would have potentially hurt the wrong demographic, he said.
The bill would have taken away school district’s authority to let athletes and military science students waive PE. Local school officials didn’t support the idea because students have so few electives they would have had to choose between ROTC and other electives such as honors classes, art or drama. The military science program includes a physical fitness component.
The Oak Harbor’s NJROTC program has remained in the top 15 percent of units nationwide, earning the title of “Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors” for the past decade.
House Resolution 4667 recognizes the program “for its accomplishments in classroom instruction, augmented throughout the year by community service activities, drill competitions, field meets, flights, visits to naval activities, marksmanship training and other military training.”