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Book inspires Charlotte JROTC cadets to go one step further

Starting today South Charlotte news is offering a new feature. During the month you’ll see articles about some of the interesting things going on in school classrooms. If you have ideas, please email Sara Carson at

Each year, members of CMS Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participate in a service learning project.

Typically, the project consists of a book study, but this year, cadets at Rocky River High School decided to go further. In addition to completing a book study, the students started a community book drive and participated in a Junior Achievement program with local elementary schools.

For this year’s book study,‘I am Malala’ was chosen. The story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who crusades for education. The book inspired the cadets.

“Isn’t that the coolest thing?” said James Callahan, Sergeant Major and Army instructor for the Ravens Battalion. “The decision was the idea of the students. It was the students on the book study team that said, ‘We’re doing a disservice to the sacrifice that Malala made in the pursuit of literacy. We’re doing a disservice if this is all we do for our project is study the book and do a project on the book – let’s take it to a different place, a place where it needs to be.’”

Rocky River cadets organized the book drive by partnering with local pediatric clinics and elementary teachers to provide books for children to take home. Books are collected through bins around the school, where students and community members can leave donations.

Rocky River’s JROTC battalion plans to continue the book drive indefinitely. The book drive, along with help from the school’s student body president and donations from the community has collected more than 1,000 books.

“It’s amazing how when you touch the hearts of the right people, and when you get people passionate about helping others, it can explode into a wonderful thing,” Callahan said.

The largest addition to the cadets’ required service project was the Junior Achievement program. By partnering with Junior Achievement, cadets were provided with teaching materials and instructed by a Junior Achievement education representative on how to teach young children.

After training, the group of 165 cadets broke in teams of six and taught financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness to local elementary schools. They taught five lessons to the classes at each school over a period of two weeks.

“It’s helped them learn different life skills that don’t necessarily get built into their curriculum, like businesses and money,” said Alyssa Hunsaker, teacher’s assistant for grades K-3 at Bain Elementary School. “We don’t get to talk about that all the time. We have to learn about fractions. It’s been good to break up their day, and it’s exciting for them.”

The cadets say they’ve also benefited from the Junior Achievement program.

“I learned a lot. When I was teaching the kids, and when I was interacting with the kids, I learned that they like to interact with us, too,” said Hernan Laredo, Rocky River student and cadet sergeant for the Ravens Battalion. “They were really, really excited about everything. I don’t usually interact with younger kids, so this is new to me.”

School notes

Butler High School

Career fair: Butler High School will hold its annual career fair on April 21. More than 50 colleges and businesses will attend. Students will be able to speak with representatives, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Charlotte Mecklenburg School District

New construction: As part of a 10-year, $2 million plan, schools will be renovated, replaced and added to the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District. The proposal will alleviate overcrowding at Ardrey Kell and South Mecklenburg High Schools, renovate and replace classroom buildings at South Mecklenburg High School, expand suburban access to magnet programs and build a replacement school for Montclair Elementary School. Details:

Airport robotics lab: A grant from the Argosy Foundation recently funded a robotics lab at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which will be open to all students in the Charlotte Region. Currently, the space is being used by 90 high school students, who are divided into four groups, working on projects for a national robotics competition.

Jay M. Robinson Middle School

Playwright award Jay M. Robinson seventh-grader Aru Hopper’s ‘Same Difference’ won this year’s Young Playwrights for Change Contest. The play is about two siblings who deal with autism in the public school system. The play will advance to a national competition. The winner will be announced May 5.

Community House Elementary School

Doodle 4 Google:

Erin Jun, a sixth-grader, is the North Carolina winner for Google’s Doodle 4 Google competition. The competition compiles artwork from students grades K-12 across the state. This year, Google’s theme for the competition was ‘What makes’ Jun received a Nexus tablet and a T-shirt with her personalized design on the shirt for winning.

Charlotte Catholic High School

2016 Gala The Charlotte Catholic High School Foundation will host its annual Gala March 19. The Gala is the largest fundraiser each year, with more than $2 million raised over the past 10 years. Doors open at 6:30, followed by a live and silent auction. Tickets are $75, and include a catered meal and music by Dead Man’s Banjo.

Rocky River High School

Culinary achievement: Clara Wagh, junior at Rocky River High School earned a gold medal for her culinary work at the Regional Family, Career and Community Leaders of America competition. Her apple puff pastry roses and mini hazelnut cakes earned her a 93 percent score in the competition. Top scorers will compete in Columbus, Ohio, later this spring. State qualifiers will be announced in early March.

Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy

Lego League: Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy’s Robo-RATS Lego league has been invited to compete in the LegoLand North American Open FLL Competition in Carlsbad, Calif., in May 2016. The team has begun raising funds for their trip, with a goal of raising $5,500 by April. The team previously won the second place Grand Champion’s Award at the NC State FLL Tournament.

Sara Carson is a freelance writer: