Budget problems lead to the closure of a popular program at a Tucson Unified School District school.
School district officials have just informed the award-winning JROTC program at Catalina High School that this is their last semester with the course. They say it simply boils down to money.
Many feel this popular program was the crowning jewel at Catalina High School, as they have won many national and state championships for the district.
"We were a sight to behold," August Derosi said. "We entered a drill meet, everybody stood and watched us march onto the pad. It was something."
Derosi said they were one one of the best in state and close to being the best in the country because of the cadets.
Cadets like Raymond Parkman, who graduated from the JROTC program.
"[It] taught me how to stand up myself, take a stand on something, win something [and] just be the one who can be the leader," Parkman said.
Cadets who graduated from the JROTC program went on to graduate from the Air Force Academy and West Point. Some now serve the community as police officers and sheriff's deputies.
Fallen firefighter Sterling Lytle also graduated from the program.
"He was like a second son. It broke my heart," said retired Col. August Derosi.
It's an emotional time for Derosi, who founded the JROTC program at Catalina High School.
"Because we've been so successful, the cadets have been so successful they worked hard for everything, they [will] hate to see all this go. My first day I said, ‘Okay, we're going to start the class with the pledge of allegiance [and] these kids didn't know it. I was mortified, plus they didn't even know what the words meant."
He taught these kids the meaning of patriotism, leadership and discipline.
"They learned to say, ‘Yes mam, no mam.' They had values that they put into practice."
A lasting bond, Derosi still gets letters from all of his students.
"I just wanted to let you know I just completed my first degree.. hoorah."
"[I] watched it grow, watched it rise from ashes to its success. Now I hate to see the demise," Derosi said.
The JROTC program had 77 students enrolled.
Tonight, TUSD officials say they would have liked to see 150 kids in the program. Lack of participation is the reason they decided to make this cut. District officials say it's one of the most difficult decisions they've had to make.
The superintendent said around $160,000 will be saved as a result of the cut to the ROTC program.
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