The future of tomorrow’s military is developing in the nation’s high schools today. There are currently more than 500,000 student cadets participating in nearly 3,300 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) units around the country.

As part of their leadership development training, the cadets participate annually in the JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge.

Enter the USS Midway Museum’s Leadership Academy.

“Using the example of famous U.S. Navy Flying Midshipmen like Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong, both former Navy pilots and NASA astronauts, the cadets were challenged to identify the character traits of a good leader and discuss how they can continue to develop their own character as they become future leaders,” said Chase Odell, Midway’s youth and leadership programs manager. 

In 2015, Midway’s education department partnered with the Travis Manion Foundation to create an onboard leadership program dedicated to teaching and improving character development skills in future generations. The academy features a day-long program that helps develop young adults as values-based leaders.

While on board Midway, the cadets were challenged with three different hands-on activities that allowed to them to put their leadership lessons into action.

The first was an obstacle course they had to navigate as a team with no spoken communication. The second challenge was to, again as a team, build the tallest structure possible in 10 minutes given only 10 balloons and a roll of tape. The last team activity was completing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces needed, unbeknownst to the cadets, placed in the puzzle boxes of other teams.

“These challenges focused on a number of leadership qualities needed to be successful not only as military officers, but as leaders in all walks of life,” said Chase. “The focus of the lessons tested the cadets in several areas including teamwork, perseverance, creativity, integrity, judgement and humility.”

The cadets where very appreciative for the opportunity to attend Midway’s leadership program and enjoyed the interaction with their mentors as well as tackling the challenges.

“These activities where cool and fun,” said one of the San Diego High School cadets. “I can’t wait to use them next year with our freshman cadets.”

Since the museum’s Leadership Academy piloted seven years ago, thousands of youths from the San Diego community have participated in the character and leadership development curriculum.

The program’s goal is to empower students to develop their unique character strengths and to hone their leadership skills in order to better serve others.

“Every cadet was smiling and having fun,” said Lt. Col. Lars Staack, the senior Army instructor for the San Diego Unified School District. “It shows that the Midway team cares about the future leaders and makes learning fun.”

“Praise like this make us look forward to hosting more leadership academies on Midway,” said Chase. “We hope to continue our new partnership with the Army JROTC and its leadership challenge program next year.”

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