Colonel Paul Willis, Director of Army Instruction of the Jackson Public Schools JROTC program spoke to the Rotary Club of Jackson on March 5.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Brooks Buchanan, Rotary president and assistant general council, C Spire, called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone.  The invocation was given, the pledge of allegiance and four-way test were recited, and guests and visiting Rotarians were welcomed.

Buchanan thanked all the volunteers who came Saturday to package 30,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. He was glad to see all the families, including children, who came out and worked so hard.  It was a lot of fun. He specifically thanked Keith Ferguson, Tom Johnson and all who organized it so well.

The Rotary District 6820 annual conference will be held June 7 – 10 in Biloxi. For more information go to
Rotarian Ashby Foote, president of Vector Money Management and president of the West Point Society of Mississippi, introduced Colonel Paul Willis, Director of Army Instruction of the Jackson Public Schools JROTC program.  Colonel Willis has run the JPS JROTC program since 2004.  Their mission is to motivate young people through caring leadership and positive influence to be better citizens for lifelong service to the community. JROTC has been in Jackson since it began at Central High School in Jackson in 1936. It is now in other JPS high schools. The Army pays half of the salaries of all instructors and the school must pay the other half.  All instructors are retired military. They offer their experience and world view perspective and they all have a passion for the students with which they work.

JROTC is helping to break the cycle of generational poverty by offering necessary skills and attributes for success: discipline, respect, work ethics and physical fitness, along with their high school academics. And students are exposed to opportunities.  They want 100% of the students to continue their education past high school.  They are not allowed to recruit for the military, however, about 20% do enter the military each year and some continue in ROTC at the college level. JROTC focuses on preparing a student for success at any level by graduating high school, continuing their education and obtaining a meaningful job.

A lot of what JROTC does is out of the classroom such as attending Boys State, Girls State, working at the VA, in nursing homes and by participating with service projects such as Stop Hunger Now and Habitat for Humanity.  Partners that show support for these students include the Army National Guard, universities and the Jackson Police Department. Twenty-five percent of high school JPS students are enrolled in JROTC.  A major problem is funding the program as the Army has cut back on its level of funding for instructors. One instructor serves 100 students. They do not need to lose instructors.

Ninety-five percent of its graduates have formal letters of acceptance to higher education.  They average $3.2 million in scholarships and complete 30,000 community service hours per year.  In Jackson, JROTC goes above and beyond what is required. They have helped create opportunities for these high school students with educational partnerships, some of which are:
-JSU Interdisciplinary Nanotoxicity Summer Institute focusing on skills for a STEM career for 30 students
-MSU STEM camp focusing on engineering and geo sciences for 60 JPS cadets plus 300 cadets from other schools.
-MSU STEM Experience Day where cadets present STEM projects to MSU evaluators and have college orientation.
-William Carey University STEM Camp at its Institute of Health Careers for 60 JPS cadets.
-Leadership development in aviation at the National Flight Academy conducted at the Pensacola Naval Air Station where 81 JROTC cadets and 24 mentees of 100 Black Men of Jackson where they get to experience the cockpit of a plane in a simulator.
-West Point Leadership, Ethics and Diversity Workshop at JSU for 200 JROTC cadets and 50 JPS educators.
-USM STEM activities in computer science and cybersecurity for rising 10th graders.
-Camp Shelby Adventure training, leadership, followership, confidence, teamwork and peer interaction.
- JPD Youth Citizens Academy/Federal Court Watch Program with Judge Henry Wingate to learn about legal proceedings and careers in law enforcement and in the legal field.
“Every Scholar, Every Day, Ready for Life” is a new JPS initiative that provides industry an opportunity to shape and develop their future workforce; while providing students hope for the future and the real possibility of meaningful employment.

There is now a Junior Cadet Corps (JCC) program at Powell Middle School, which has changed its name to Powell Academy of Military Science, to provide instruction for students at a younger age.  It is better to pay for programs like this now than to pay later for incarceration. 

For more information you may visit the website at or contact Colonel Paul Willis at