Over the past three weeks, the Hesperia Star has visited the JROTC programs at all three comprehensive public high schools in Hesperia. Each has its own story to tell, but all have many things in common.


While not considered an academic class per se, the JROTC programs offers a unique learning opportunity to high schoolers. All three emphasize discipline, honor and respect, and along the way cadets will learn about related subjects. Thanks to Lt. Col. Gene Doremus, who heads the Hesperia High unit, a wealth of knowledge about aeronautics is passed along to students. But students also learn about team building, cultural differences and much more.


No one knows more about the value of the high school's JROTC programs than Dr. Robert Kirk, a member of the Hesperia Unified School District's board of education. Himself a retired pilot who flew missions in Vietnam, Dr. Kirk has seen his two sons go through the Hesperia High program, the oldest unit in the Victor Valley.


"It's excellent," he said. "They learn proper conduct, proper dress, attention to details. That's the kind of thing that the military teaches."


In fact, both of Dr. Kirk's adult children, Timothy and Mark, got college scholarships thanks in part to their JROTC participation. And both have flourished as adults. Timothy Kirk is a speechwriter in Washington, D.C. and Mark Kirk is the chief of staff for County Supervisor Gary Ovitt.


But others have benefited from their association with the JROTC.


"They've given hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarships to our students."


So it's no surprise that Dr. Kirk, who along with other school district officials are in the process of making tough decisions to bring down district expenses, is sad to learn that the program faces possible elimination.


"I think it's a wonderful program. I'd hate to see it close at Hesperia High."


Because of state cuts to education, the Hesperia school district and countless other school districts across California must find ways to reduce spending by literally millions of dollars. Last week the district released a list of proposed cuts. While specific teachers weren't mentioned in the list, two high school FTEs were identified. That means the equivalent of two full-time employees (or four half-time) are marked for layoffs.


"It isn't the end of the discussion," said Dr. Kirk, who added that each site principal will have the biggest say in the decision. "I hope other forces will intervene. I agonize what's on the list. I want to beat my head against the wall. I'm hopeful that this won't be the end of the story."