When college students returned to campus in person after being at home during the onset and rise of COVID-19, their world changed completely. In particular, Daniel Brooks, principal of Woodlake Hills Middle School, noticed that his students were having trouble re-engaging in school and needed reminders about conflict resolution. The solution to the problem was the implementation of the Leadership Officer Training Corps (LOTC), a program aimed at empowering high school students to become community leaders.
“Our students had trouble dealing with conflict and didn’t seem able to talk to or reason with each other,” Brooks said.
When the JISD Innovation Office was launched in the spring of 2022, community members asked for a program to help students readjust to school and reach their full potential. Cecilia Davis, Director of Innovation, pitched the idea for LOTC to the superintendent of Judson ISD, and the school board was very supportive.
The LOTC started in the five middle schools of JISD at the beginning of the 2022 school year.
Cadets in the program are taught by a LOTC instructor and participate in project-based learning, extracurricular activities, and community service.
Cynthia Brown, a 20-year Army veteran, is the designated LOTC instructor at Woodlake Hills. She said one of her favorite parts of the program is seeing students discover confidence.
“I love how we can instill leadership principles and discover the attributes they already possess,” she said. “We work on teamwork, communication skills and everyone’s self-confidence. What I love most about the program is seeing that light bulb go on when they find themselves able to do something they didn’t think they could do at first.
Captain Ray, LOTC instructor at Metzger, said the program had as much impact on parents as it did on students.
“Some parents come to the open days. It was mind-boggling because to them they are just regular students, but in the classroom they are responsible leaders,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see them in this capacity.”
Captain Ray’s LOTC cadet class held a 9/11 assembly for the school and plans to hold a similar event for Veterans Day. Additionally, his cadets also volunteer at a food bank and distribute food every fourth Wednesday of the month.
“It’s not about school,” he said. “It’s about community and getting students to see how they can be better citizens.”
In addition to extracurricular activities, involvement in bands and choirs, and community service, students can also hone their speaking and communication skills.
Eric Otto, Kitty Hawk’s LOTC instructor, asks his students to lead school morning announcements to help them strengthen their public speaking skills. Additionally, he tells his cadets to be proud of the LOTC uniform they wear every Wednesday.
The LOTC program has approximately 500 students enrolled for the 2022-23 school year and has already had an impact on the culture of the college and the surrounding community. Brooks said in 2021 the school had the highest number of physical altercations he had seen as principal. Now students are able to handle problems and build relationships with each other.
“At first, our students had trouble dealing with conflict, and they didn’t seem able to talk to and reason with each other,” he said. “Everyone was ready to shake hands instead of talking. Now our students are starting to mingle with each other and LOTC leaders are helping to crush a lot of the drama middle schoolers may be having.
For Brooks and other teachers and administrators at JISD, this means less time spent in the front office dealing with referrals. The program is also a direct route to JROTC programs offered at JISD high schools, and the two organizations are already working together.
Brooks said the program continues to be successful and in the future he hopes to see a waiting list for LOTC.
“I know it will come because other students will see how fun it has been for current students,” he said. “I want to be able to say I need another LOTC instructor on my campus because my numbers are growing.”
Find registration information, instructor biographies and more on the JISD website. For more information on LOTC, visit the JISD website here.
The story above was produced by the Community Impact storytelling team with information provided solely by the local business as part of their purchase of “sponsored content” through our advertising team. Our promise of integrity to our readers is to clearly identify all CI Storytelling posts so that they are separated from the content decided, researched and written by our journalism department.