CG Junior Leadership program one of only two alike

By Kristi Langenbacher

Correspondent

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The Coast Guard Junior Leadership Program at Camden County High Scholl is one of only two U.S. Coast Guard sponsored programs of its kind in the nation.

The program began at Camden County High School in 2010, under the direction of retired Coast Guard Capt. Algernon Keith as Senior Maritime Science Instructor.

“We started from scratch in 2010, and are in our sixth year now,” Keith said, adding that the battalion averages about 76 cadets, which was this year’s enrollment.

The program began the same year that Billie Berry became principal of the school. JLP is one of only two of its kind in the United States.

“We are the only traditional public school in the country with the program,” Berry said. The other is at a magnet school, the Maritime and Science Technology Academy, commonly referred to as MAST Academy in Miami, Fla.

Keith said the main focus of the program is leadership, and the entire Battalion meets for a leadership lab one hour before school three days a week for the whole school year. The lab is run by the senior cadet cadre students under the supervision of adult instructors. Cadets also enroll in a regular three-credit class, Maritime Science one through four, depending on their year in school. In each class the students get an introduction to the military and learn navigation, among other things, Keith said. He said the program is run similar to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC at other high schools.

“We use a military rank structure, compete in marching drill, air rifle, and raider — which is an army concept of orienteering, physical fitness, first aid and rope bridge construction,” he said. The cadets are required to complete 20 community service hours per year and have averaged well over 2,000 hours per year for the entire Battalion.

Pursuing a career in the military is not a requirement, but several Camden graduates have gone on to serve in one of the five armed services, Keith said.

“We have about 10 graduates serving in the Coast Guard active or reserve forces, one graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy this May, two currently at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, one in the Coast Guard C-SPI officer program at E.C.S.U.,” he said. “We also have one in Army ROTC at Campbell University, one in U.S. Air Force ROTC in Texas, and one in U.S. Navy ROTC at University of Texas.”

Berry said there is a lot of Coast Guard influence in Camden County, which makes it great to have the program in the school.

“It brings an awareness of the Coast Guard and what it means to have the Coast Guard in the community,” Berry said. “However, the major focus of the program is leadership, and the emphasis on leadership has a tremendous impact on our student population.”

In addition to attending leadership and academic classes, select cadets attend a week-long joint Air Force and Coast Guard leadership academy known as Cadet Leadership Course at the Citadel in Charleston S.C. each summer. JLP students also tutor other students, perform volunteer services throughout the community, and coordinate the Spring Salute each May to honor county-wide teachers of the year.

The goal is for senior student cadets to run a large portion of what goes on in the JLP, Keith said. The instructors teach academic subjects in class, and provide guidance and support to the senior cadre.

“Each year I like to think we get better and better at this,” he said.

Berry said Keith has worked hard to oversee the program since its beginning nearly six years ago.

“He has done a phenomenal job with the program and it has exceeded our expectations since its inception,” he said.

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