Parents, students want to keep JROTC program around in Roanoke County

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Due to declining enrollment, the Air Force is pulling the plug on the junior ROTC program at William Byrd High School.

Britaney Minter has heard the rumors for a few months but she recently got a letter to confirm the news from Roanoke County Schools about the possible end to the JROTC program.

"They are like a family. They keep them busy. These kids are there four days out of five after (doing) after-school activities for the JROTC," said Minter. 

 Her son Zach Minter is a sophomore in his second year in the program at William Byrd. She said he was hoping to continue the program in the next few years of high school.

"He wanted to be able to run the corps when he got to be a senior, so this was a devastating blow to us," said Minter. 

She says JROTC was a life-changing experience for him. 

"He's out of his shell. He very much has taken on a leadership role. Last year as a freshman he actually got promoted to the point where he was able to do the inspections on their outfits and attire," said Minter. 

Jason Suhr is the director of technical education at Roanoke County Schools. He says the Air Force recently notified them they would be shutting down the program at the end of the school year due to low enrollment. They're required to have 100 students participating. Currently, there are only 65 throughout the whole county in the program. 

"There's been multiple emails sent. Also, a phone call was sent to the Air Force asking them to reconsider, which has come back, so far, to no avail," said Suhr. 

Suhr says they're still looking at other options to keep the program around. 

"Possibly reaching out to neighboring school districts. (We're) also looking at other branches of the armed forces as far as JROTC programs (and) a school-funded possibility called The National Defense Cadet Corps," said Suhr. 

Minter isn't giving up, either. She created this change.org petition, hoping the Air Force would take notice. 

"Just so everyone knows that this program is valuable and we're getting ready to lose it. Everyone's going to take a hit, not just our students, but our community," she said. 

The JROTC program was created in the 2006-07 school year.