The Junior ROTC program at local high schools can provide students with much more than discipline and focus. It can also lead to big college scholarships.
Gainesville High School Junior ROTC Battalion Commander Austin Hottinger has been awarded a full National Naval ROTC Scholarship to Auburn University worth $250,000. The high school senior has maintained a 4.3 grade point average while overseeing the 153 corps cadets.
Hottinger also played a big role in initiating Gainesville High’s JROTC program last school year. He came to Gainesville with Master Sgt. Jack Reese from Union Grove High School in McDonough. The fledgling Gainesville corps has emerged as one of the leading JROTC units in the state.
"There’s a lot of drive in the cadets in ROTC,"
Hottinger said. "They’re very motivated. They’re thirsty for the goal. So far, we’ve beaten all the schools in Georgia in drill, physical and academics."
Reese said when he is recruiting eighth-graders for the high school’s JROTC unit, he tells them that the program can offer a full ride to college in exchange for five years of military service after college graduation.
"That’s the first thing we talk about is all the benefits. We push college on every student," he said. "We offer these kids a chance in life to get out of poverty. We’re seeing that we’re appealing a lot to the Hispanic and Asian underprivileged students. The way out of this is through education."
Reese said the average JROTC scholarship is worth $180,000. He said the Gainesville program’s goal is to have cadets earn at least $1 million in scholarships this school year.
Kim Hottinger, Austin’s mother, said she has enjoyed watching her son cut his long hair and dive into JROTC.
"He’s learned how to deal with a lot of different people and has learned different coping mechanisms and how not to have a temper," she said. "I’m very proud of him."
The benefits of JROTC don’t end with college. Hottinger said depending on what cadets do in the military upon college graduation, they can earn between $40,000 and $50,000 annually right out of school.
Hottinger said while he’s not quite sure if he will major in political science or bio environmental engineering, he is sure about his college ROTC and military service plans.
"I’ve got the next nine years of my life planned out," he said.