When it comes to learning basic military skills, La Cueva High School is one of the top schools in the country.
For the second year in a row, La Cueva was named a Naval Honor School for its Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. According to a release from Albuquerque Public Schools, that makes it just one of 13 schools across the United States to receive the award.
“We try our absolute best in everything that we do,” Cadet Staff Sgt. Ethan Wood said in a video posted to an APS YouTube page. “It’s a huge honor that we got the award, but we’re just going to keep striving forward to do our best.”
“I think what got us … there is the help of our senior marine instructors. They have been so helpful and important,” Cadet Capt, Iris Matthews added.
Master Sgt. Roberto Valdez, the director of JROTC instruction at APS, particularly commended La Cueva’s program on its marksmanship and drills in a news release.
“They’re winning competitions, they’re participating, they’re engaging in the community,” he said.
That includes two rifle matches in New Mexico, according to 1st Sgt. Alberto Griego.
Every public high school in Albuquerque has a JROTC program, Griego said, adding that the students at La Cueva, where he’s an instructor, went “above and beyond.”
He said this is the sixth time overall that La Cueva has received the honor, which is given out based on community service events, competitions, graduation and scholarship rates and other achievements of JROTC students.
“This is not something that’s actually required of them to do, this is something that they choose to do,” he told the Journal. “The more involved the students are, the more points you earn toward that Naval Honor School recognition.”
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Valdez said that JROTC teaches students skills they don’t often get in their ordinary schooling.
“The students are taught life skills — some of the things we don’t get in English class or math class, but more of the critical thinking,” Valdez said.
Many of the La Cueva students also highlighted leadership as one of their main takeaways from their school’s program. For Matthews, though, it was the physical challenges that come along with the program that proved the most formative.
“I came into this program actually not being able to do any pushups at all, which is super embarrassing,” she said. “But now I am at the top of my class in all physical fitness.”