SAN BENITO — Erasmo Cardoza called his varsity armed exhibition drill team to attention and gave them instructions to begin their routine.
With modified fake rifles at hand, Erasmo’s team began to march synchronously while Cardoza monitored the routine and guided them through.
When Erasmo joined San Benito CISD’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps his freshman year, he said he felt too timid to have a leadership position.
But over time, he said his shy behavior began to fade away as he transformed into a more confident leader thanks to the NJROTC Program.
As a cadet commander, Erasmo said he’s looking forward to taking on more responsibility and teaching younger students attributes they can look up to.
This week, dozens of current cadets such as Erasmo and interested newcomers are participating in a summer camp held by San Benito CISD’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
From talking to NJROTC instructors and learning more about the program to practicing drill routines, the summer camp marks the start of another year filled with learning, community service, practices and team competitions.
The program has a total of eight teams that cadets can chose to compete in, which includes an armed and unarmed drill team, a robotics team, an orienteering team, a color guard team, a physical fitness team, an academic team and a marksmanship team.
Last year, the program reached the NJROTC State Competition and placed 10th out of 16 competing teams.
Going into his last year of high school, Erasmo said placing in the top three at state is his ultimate goal.
“We want to go there not to compete, but to win,” he said. “We’re going to try hard, practice what we play and hopefully reach those goals this year.”
Isabel Costilla, a junior at San Benito High School, felt inspired to become a member of the NJROTC program in January after seeing the cadets practice and perform at football games.
“By my second day, I was already marching with them, which felt amazing,” she said. “I’ve been ranked into an officer position already and I love that I joined the program.”
Isabel believes through the NJROTC program she has changed in a way where she’s learned how to be a better person.
“I’ve learned leadership skills, which at first I didn’t have,” she admitted. “I’m a very shy person and being in the program has helped me get out of that shell I was in.”
Isabel said being in the program is a great opportunity and recommends for students that aren’t in the program to visit a practice to see and learn about what they do.
NJROTC’s summer camp is open to all San Benito High School and Veterans Memorial Academy students.
Students interested in joining the program are still able to visit the summer camp, which will be held today and tomorrow from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. near the portables at San Benito High School.