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Learning leadership: JLC begins in Hardin County middle schools

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By Kelly Cantrall

Students have begun participating in a new program that’s being piloted by Hardin County Schools.

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The new Junior Leadership Corps began this past week at North and J.T. Alton middle schools. The program is similar to the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at the high school level and is part of Project PASS, which is a partnership between the U.S. Army and the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The program is being piloted at the two local middle schools and in school districts in Christian County; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Garden City, Kan.; and Jackson County, Miss.

North Middle students were introduced to the program Thursday with the class’s instructor, retired 1st Sgt. Neal Gibbs.

As Gibbs was letting students know what they would be covering during the program, he asked them what they thought the class was intended to do. He got answers about learning leadership skills and preparing for the future, each of which got a “hooah!” of agreement from Gibbs. When a student answered that they thought the class was to help them succeed in life, Gibbs’ “hooah” was even more enthusiastic.

“That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Gibbs said later that he wanted to instill social skills in his students and teach them how to get along with and respect others. He wants them to consider all of their actions and their potential implications, a message he shared with students when he told them what the term discipline meant to him — doing the right thing when no one was looking.

“That’s my goal,” he told them, “to keep you on track for your goals,” he said.

J.T. Alton Principal Jama Bennett said her school’s first few days had been spent introducing students to the program as well. She said there was a lot of excitement among the students about the Corps, and some are encouraging their friends to join.

“I just see this thing growing by leaps and bounds,” Bennett said.

North seventh-grader Sarah Smith said she wanted to join the class to change the way she interacts with others, or to get what a parent might call an “attitude adjustment.” She said it’s not always positive.

“And I want to change that,” she said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.