Nearly 50 of DPS’ talented JROTC members competed in the Inaugural JROTC Denver-wide Air Rifle Competition last month, supporting the district’s core values of collaboration and fun. Cadets on JROTC rifle teams, competing with sporter-class air rifles on closely-supervised school ranges, learn many valuable life lessons such as self-discipline, concentration and teamwork. These lessons are important to students as indicators of college and career readiness.
“Competing is not only about hitting the target, it’s about becoming better mentally and giving it your best,” said Mauricio Portillo, a junior at Lincoln. “The journey to become a better marksman can either be fun or the hardest thing ever; it’s about your goals and successes throughout the process. With some time and hard work, it becomes the most enjoyable and competitive sport you can be a part of.”
For decades, Denver’s JROTC teams would compete in either “postal matches,” where students would shoot on their own range, or “two teams shoulder to shoulder,” in which one team’s five competitors would travel to another school to compete against that school’s five competitors as the students stood next to each other on the line.
“Those competitions were great, but they didn’t do the best job we could in preparing our students for state, regional and national competitions,” said Master Sergeant Mark Beasley, an instructor at Abraham Lincoln High School and the team’s coach. In an effort to duplicate these conditions and improve camaraderie among both the students and coaches, this year the JROTC team took a far different approach: “The JROTC Denver-wide Air Rifle Competitions have approximately 80 cadets on the firing line simultaneously, shooting twice the number of targets our students have traditionally shot, which makes for a far more challenging environment.”
On Sept. 23, Denver JROTC conducted its first ever brigade-wide match, with nearly 50 competitors from the city’s 10 JROTC programs. Master Sergeant Beasley spent many hours constructing targets built with material donated by local companies that was the driving force behind the competition. For the first time ever, all 10 programs competed together utilizing the target format the students will face at the state competition in December. This was the first of three Denver competitions occurring this fall.
Feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive as they talked about what competing and their team means to them.
“In this sport, you forget about everything, your problems and stresses. You focus on you and the target in front of you. The environment makes you feel at home, you bond with your teammates and it’s like having a family on the range. Even though it’s a challenging sport, you can have the best times of your life on a range,” explained Marina Banuelos, a sophomore at Lincoln.
JROTC programs help prepare students for college and career readiness in many ways, including college tours, career exploration opportunities and leadership training. For more information on college and career programs, visit https://collegeandcareer.dpsk12.org.