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Setting the bar for volunteerism - Central Oregonian

January 16, 2012
Crook County High School

On any given day of the week, it is a common sight to see members of the Crook County High School Navy Junior ROTC volunteering long hours in the community.

The local unit recently was informed that they were nominated and selected as the regional winner of the 2011 Governor’s Volunteer Award in the Outstanding Youth Volunteer Program category. In addition to this honor, CCHS ROTC instructor, Russ Robison was selected as NJROTC Area 13 Teacher of the Year for Citizenship Development. The two awards go hand-in-hand in every way, since it takes strong leadership and a strong group of cadets to make these kinds of achievements.

“We commend this program on its excellent service and strong commitment to Oregon communities,” said Kathleen Joy, executive director for Oregon Volunteers.

During the 2010-2011 school year, the local ROTC unit contributed a whopping 5,778 hours in the community. They ran the sound system for their school sporting events, they videotaped school and sporting events, maintained the school website, and even tutored their peers who were struggling academically. This doesn’t include community service events, such as honor guard and helping senior citizens in the area.

The Governor’s Volunteer Awards recognize individuals and organizations for their dedication, commitment, and determination in promoting and supporting volunteerism throughout Oregon, with the purpose of inspiring individuals to make a positive difference and strengthening Oregon communities.

Donny Jackson, retired Master Chief and CCHS ROTC instructor, said that when the determination is made for volunteer projects in the community, it is a decision the students make as a unit.

“One of the things we have always believed in (in the unit) is giving back to the community,” said Jackson. “What it means to me is a pat on the back to the students for a job well-done from the state level.”

“It says to the group that you are an extraordinary special group of young people, who are clearly living your values,” emphasized Joy. “You are celebrated by your community on an ongoing basis, and now we can celebrate you at statewide level with thanks for the many things that you do.”

CCHS Cadet Commanding Officer Melissa Lopez said that most of the projects are based on requests from the community. Some of the projects include sporting events, dance recitals and events in the auditorium, trap shoots, helping senior citizens, and tutoring other fellow students as needed. These are just a few of the community service events, and the ROTC unit also has an honor guard, who conducts a ceremony for families of veterans who have passed away.

Of her cadets, Lopez said, “I am very proud. They step up and it’s not just one person — it’s a whole group effort. We should all be proud of this accomplishment, because it took all of us to accomplish it.”

Commander Russ Robison, the other ROTC instructor at CCHS, said that it takes a great deal of effort and creativity to run a successful ROTC program. He also emphasized that it is a student-run program.

“They go to the senior center, and they do it with their own time,” said Robison of some of their volunteer activities. “Four years ago, the students won this award.

“It’s a completely different batch of kids. Those kids are gone that did that — they are all gone from the high school.”

He said that a couple of years ago, he and Jackson sat down and discussed what could be improved upon in their program.

“We stopped all activities and decided to team-build and expand our program to include more demographics of the student body,” said Robison. He explained that it is necessary to make modifications for a wide range of students, while keeping expectations high.

And the students have certainly stepped up to the challenge.

The other award for Citizenship Development Teacher of the Year was awarded to Robison in September.

Northwest Region Manager Captain Daniel Wenceslao presented the award to Robison on behalf of NJROTC Area 13.

“Russ was selected from a group of 150 instructors from 13 states, including Hawaii, Japan, and Guam. In area 13, there is no better instructor than CDR Robison,” commented Wenceslao in his notification letter.

“He has directed the program with total abandonment, investing every ounce of Navy professionalism, leadership, and solid mentorships that he has to cadets, students, and other instructors alike,” added Wenceslao.

“I appreciate Commander (Russ Robison) and Master Chief (Donny Jackson),” said Lopez. “The program wouldn’t be where it’s at without them.”

Jackson said that Robison is very motivated and the students completely respect him.

“By virtue of his leadership, he is teaching the upper-classmen leadership skills, how to set an example, and motivate them to do well in school academically,” commented Jackson.

The CCHS Navy Junior ROTC sent seven cadets to accept the Governor’s Volunteer Award today. They joined volunteers from six regions throughout the state of Oregon.

Joy said the volunteer program was originally started in 1980 by Governor Victor Atiyeh, and had a 12-year hiatus between the initial establishment and when the program was restarted in 1996. Joy said they solicit nominations throughout the state in the spring.

“We thought it was really important to do this regionally,” said Joy. “This nomination was actually submitted by a senior cadet for the organization.”

In addition to this year’s presentation and recognition awards for the Volunteer Oregon convention is a $450 cash award — which will be donated to the 501(c)(3) organization of their choice. The cash award is donated by Wells Fargo, who was a recipient of a volunteer award last year.

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