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Freedom will offer Navy ROTC program

The principal says ROTC draws students not interested in other activities - and helps them pay for college.

By JOEL POILEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- Richard Bartels was a strong proponent of ROTC programs during his administrative tenure in the Hillsborough County school system.

Named principal of the new Freedom High School in January, Bartels lobbied hard for a Naval ROTC program.

On July 11, Bartels was granted his wish, with word that Freedom can offer ROTC when it opens for the first time Aug. 7.

"When you look at a high school, a lot of ninth-graders who are not part of the athletic program or not a musician don't become connected with the high schools," Bartels said.

"I've seen the benefits ROTC can bring to a school. It helps kids who have never thought about joining a club get involved. It's an organization that appeals to students of all levels.

"If some students have the grades and SAT scores they can qualify for ROTC scholarships. So it's a way to help a youngster pay for a college education."

Bartels said he received a number of inquiries from parents who wanted to know if Freedom would offer Naval ROTC. Wharton and Gaither, which many of Freedom's students last attended, already have the program. Tampa Bay Tech and Robinson offer it as well.

Bartels added Air Force ROTC when Bloomingdale opened in 1987, and that was the first county school to offer the program. He instituted Naval ROTC while principal at King in the late '90s.

ROTC programs start with about 30 students. The Navy requires a minimum of 100 midshipmen be in the program by the third year, Bartels said.

Two instructors are being hired for the course.

"Our intent is certainly not to grow a new crop of submariners," Bartels said. "It's another organization that we can make available to our students."

Freedom will have an open house in the gym where students can get their schedules and meet teachers on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. Liberty Middle School, which shares the new campus, will have its open house the same night at 5 p.m.

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