Cadet Corps provides students with life skills

Published 8:59 am Friday, December 2, 2016

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Kevin Ott, instructor for the East Tennessee Overmountain Cadet Corps program, assists the cadets in preparing for parade march.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Kevin Ott, instructor for the East Tennessee Overmountain Cadet Corps program, assists the cadets in preparing for parade march.

Three years ago, Scott Whitmire saw untapped potential in students within the Carter County School System and worked with school officials to create a unique program to help those students reach their goals.
At the time, Whitmire was a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and served as the School Resource Officer at Happy Valley High School. While observing and working with the students, he saw some had true leadership abilities but didn’t know how to use them while others demonstrated a need for structure in their lives. Some students were in need of something to help build their confidence, while others were searching to find their place in their school and world.
“I saw the value in some kids and gave them the opportunity to show themselves,” Whitmire said.
In working with the school system, Whitmire hoped to get an ROTC program for the school but none was available. Refusing to let that deter him, he decided to work with school officials to create something unique to Carter County.
Thus, the East Tennessee Overmountain Cadet Corps was born.
While structured similar to an ROTC program, the Cadet Corps is not affiliated with any specific military branch.
“It’s structured more for discipline,” Whitmire said. “It gives them structure and helps them focus on future goals.”
When a new cadet joins, Whitmire and fellow instructor Kevin Ott speak with the students about their goals for school and a career.
“I ask them if they could do something for free, volunteer to do it, what would that be,” Whitmire said.
From those things the students enjoy doing, the instructors help them to look for ways to turn what they enjoy doing into a career.
“I take that big dream and pull it into a funnel to see where to point them,” Whitmire said.
For example, he shared, if a student enjoys working with animals, he has them to research careers such as veterinarians or vet technicians. From there he connects the students with someone in that field and learn about the ins and outs of the job.
“I want them to feel and see what that job is,” he said.
The program itself is designed to not only help the students learn discipline, but to also help them build confidence while learning professionalism, demeanor and leadership skills. Students also learn about civics such as government functions and structure and civil service.
“We teach them about law enforcement and all the civil services,” Whitmire said.
While not affiliated with a branch of the military, the students receive the chance to work along side some of the areas reservists. Once a month, the Cadet Corps spends a weekend working with military members at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Gray.
Since the program launched, Whitmire said he has seen the students grow and succeed. The program helps them earn their Tennessee Promise Scholarship hours and Whitmire said many colleges or military branches will give more consideration to a student who has been enrolled in an ROTC type program.
The Carter County School system pays for the program instructors through the 21st Century Community Learning Center after school grant, which is a federally funded grant. Uniforms for the cadets are purchased through a community partnership between the program and a local veterans organization.
“The American Legion has partnered with us and purchased all the uniforms and basically anything we need,” Whitmire said, adding that Rick Walters, Commander of American Legion Post 49, approached him and said the Post wanted to help support the program.
Originally the Cadet Corps was only offered at Happy Valley High School, but now it has been expanded to include students from all four county high schools.
Since helping to create the program, Whitmire has changed jobs and now works with the Elizabethton Police Department serving as the School Resource Officer at Elizabethton High School. He carried with him the belief that the program can have a positive impact in the lives of students and this week, the Elizabethton City School System launched their own East Tennessee Overmountain Cadet Corps.
“It’s two separate programs because of it being in the city and county, but it’s structured the same,” Whitemire said.
With the launching of the new Cadet Corps with the city schools, Whitmire said the American Legion stepped up and is also supplying uniforms for those cadets as well.

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