Just two weeks into the second semester, you would think CVA’s new Navy National Defense Corps of Cadets (NNDCC) class had been running for years.
Almost 70 students enrolled in this program that focuses on citizenship, patriotism, and life skills. Over four years, the course covers 60 lessons ranging from geography and vector math to naval vessels and leadership.
“This is not a recruiting organization,” stressed instructor Donald Beyer.
He said if anything, he works to ensure the armed forces are a good fit for a student and that the recruiter has clearly represented the student’s commitment. After 53 years as a sailor or teacher, he knows the military and students.
His real goal is for 100 percent of his students to graduate from high school and for those students to find success in life through the program.
The course meets one period each day. In a five-day week, three classes are Naval Science instruction, one is uniform/drilling and one physical fitness. Cadets earn their rank by completing community service, demonstrating leadership, developing drill skills, and according to time in rank.
“This program allows kids from all skill levels , regardless of physical or academic ability, to work together as part of an academic or drill team. It melds them together as a unit,” he said.
Competition also plays an important part. Cadets are encouraged to their physical fitness, drill, and academic skills against other NJROTC schools in the region (Mexico, Proctor, Notre Dame, Rome Free Academy, Syracuse’s Fowler, and Amsterdam).
Beyer said the Naval Science program builds self-esteem, respect for others, personal discipline, goal setting, and time management. That spills over into other areas of high school.
“Cadets must be in academic good standing to remain in the program,” he said.
“Kids will do whatever it takes to stay. That results in improved graduation rates.”
Beyer was a U.S. Navy Commissioned Warrant Officer, serving in multiple theaters including Vietnam. He attended the Navy’s Training Support Center in San Diego where he learned to teach. Upon his retirement after 25 years of active service, he began his second career as a Navy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (NJROTC) instructor.
His first assignment at Notre Dame in Utica. After 14 years, he left to begin the NJROTC program at Proctor High School. He brings his 28 years of teaching experience to CVA to begin the Thunder program.
NNDCC is the precursor to a fully commissioned NJROTC program. Although the content is virtually identical, the NNDCC program tests the school, student, and community commitment to the program. For the first two years as NNDCC, the school district purchases uniforms and pays Mr. Beyer’s salary. If approved as an NJROTC program, the U.S. Navy assumes those expenses.