Fifth-grader Ramon Juarez is an active participant in Jefferson Elementary School’s military club and deeply values the lessons he learns from former Navy SEAL and club sponsor Bill Peters.
“I love how I get to learn new things,” Juarez said. “At first we started off with random simple drills, and then we worked our way to harder things.”
Juarez, 10, is currently working on a drill called “arm breaker” in which he and fellow club member Elijah Parada, 10, swing parade rifles behind their backs before exchanging them aerially. The pair has been working on the drill for about two weeks, receiving guidance from Peters along the way.
“It’s one of the best feelings ever to be able to watch 9-year-olds want to make a commitment like this,” Peters said. “To see them want to put in all that work, see their work ethic and see them develop as they become leaders in the community is great.”
Juarez was selected as the club’s commander after exhibiting the greatest dedication and participation, Peters said.
Peters — a math and science teacher who served in the Navy for 13 years before suffering an injury — began Jefferson Elementary School’s military club a few years ago and has seen his student involvement rise to 63 active members this academic year.
“We started the year off with about 96 kids and they started to drop out when they realized that they don’t get a rifle or a T-shirt right away,” Peters said. “They have to earn their way up to that and earn the position.”
Everything begins at a slow pace but students are immediately instilled with a sense of responsibility by having a behavioral folder they carry throughout campus.
“They get tracked on behavior and are constantly monitored by multiple people … just like in the military,” Peters said. “They set the standard.”
Students understand they will perform push-ups, laps, crunches or jumping jacks if they get bad marks in their behavioral folders. But his students have shown great initiative when new members join the club after Christmas break.
“All the kids who have been in the club since the beginning of the year ... I really don’t teach them anymore,” Peters said. “They’re teaching each other and they’re off on their own practicing their routines.”
Peters has noticed great reactions from active military members, and American Legion Post No. 133 in Temple donated $3,000 to the club last year.
“The community and the military have just been clamoring over the club and how amazing it is,” Peters said. “It’s just been a great response and the families are seeing just what a good influence the club has been.”
The military club will hold a ceremony at Jefferson Elementary on Veterans Day, and will have the opportunity to show their classmates everything they have learned from Peters. There will be a posting of the colors before engaging in a demonstration of their 15 Count Manual of Arms on the gym stage.