By COLLIN BROOKS
A 35 isn’t a perfect score on the ACT and Daniel Boone JROTC Cadet Commanding Officer Ronnie Jenkins is well aware of that. But that score made him smile when he mentioned it, not because he is proud of it — he is — but because it isn’t the perfect score that he has been gunning for.
That is the type of mentality that helped to earn Cadet Major Jenkins the 2016 Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement. The award designates Jenkins as the top Marine Corps JROTC Cadet in the fourteen states comprising the Midwest and Mid-South United States. He is one of five recipients across the nation.
“He’s a bit of a perfectionist,” said Major Steve Seiss through a smile. “Anyone that got a 35 on the ACT would close the book and turn around, but he isn’t satisfied. I think Ronnie comes as close to exemplifying what we are striving for.
“He is the whole individual, we are looking to make that whole rounded individual. Whatever you ask of him, he gives you everything he has got.”
The award is given based on academic excellence, leadership potential and service to the school, community and nation.
“Really I just did what I was expected to,” said Jenkins of receiving the award. “We have a hard curriculum, which is very appreciated. They instill the highest quality of leadership and patriotism in every one of these cadets…So I was just going along with the herd, not really thinking I was doing anything special, because everyone around me was doing the same thing.”
Jenkins went a bit beyond what some of the others in his group might have done, compiling almost 700 hours of community service entering his senior year — Daniel Boone only requires six hours for their graduating seniors.
Jenkins isn’t the first cadet to win — but he is the first male — the award from the Daniel Boone JROTC program. He is actually the third consecutive and fifth since 2008. The others include Tashina Roberts, Abigail Scott, Summer Donald (2010) and Amanda Gilliam (2008)
One of the guiding lights for Jenkins has been a saying that he uses every day.
“Perception outweighs reality,” he said. “Because no matter what, how people see you is going to be more important than the truth.”
No matter how people perceive Jenkins, the reality is his resume is solid. Besides overseeing 110 cadets, Jenkins has completed close to 700 hours of community service entering his senior year.
While he has been involved in the Boy Scouts since a young age, Jenkins admits that when he was entering high school, he simply joined the JROTC because it was a place he thought he might feel comfortable as a freshman.
“I thought if I had that type of community with me, it might be easier and I was right,” said Jenkins. “The closest friends I have are all because of this program.”
The 17-year old said that he has always thrived in situations where there was pressure and high expectations and he isn’t quite sure what he will do to maintain that close knit family atmosphere when he goes to college. He is currently considering the service as a backup plan but will almost definitely serve in the reserves to get through college.
Jenkins said he wants to attain an associate’s degree from ETSU and then move on to NYU to get a bachelor’s in Mass Communication with a minor in musical theater and possibly follow that up with a master’s degree.
But he hopes to participate in the reserves in order to fill that large-family void until then.
The entire Daniel Boone Marine Corps JROTC was also selected as a Marine Corps Reserve Association Award Recipient.
The MCRA Award distinguishes Daniel Boone High School as one of the top five MCJROTC programs in the nation. Criteria for selection are based on a unit’s record of competitive activities, commitment of the cadets to school and community service, and results of an annual inspection by the program’s national headquarters. This is the Daniel Boone MCJROTC Program’s fourth MCRA award since 2010 and the 18th consecutive year as a Naval Honor School, designating the program as one of the top 10% of all programs nationwide.
Seiss didn’t take all of the credit for the program’s award, instead, he said it is the kids that come through the program that make it what it is.
“It’s the young men and women,” he said. “The program does, to some extent focus them toward community service, but with the academics, you have to be a smart kid. Now we push the academics and emphasize leading by example, but I think the young people recognized for that would excel in any venue they happen to be in.”
And for anyone that might not be interested in the JROTC, Jenkins had some advice.
“Try it,” said Jenkins of JROTC. “It honestly is a completely different experience then you’ll get from any other type of program in high school. It’s not just a sport or an extracurricular activity that you do after school, it’s a completely different mindset, it’s a complete lifestyle. It just doesn’t effect JROTC, those traits that you gain, your leadership traits and integrity it sticks with you.”