By Marissa Armas

DENVER (CBS4)– It’s a program that helped Manual High School senior Ariana Rivera step out of her shell.

(credit: JROTC Manual)

“I am an introvert, I am not a leader, but entering this program it taught me all of that,” Rivera said.

But now, after more than 100 years, the school’s Army JROTC program is ending.

“I’m pretty heartbroken, kind of frustrated because like, how do we not have a say?” said Rivera.

Recently, the Manual community was told the program would not be continuing and a new program would be opened at Northfield High School instead. But for a school that serves primarily students of color, alum Caren Robledo believes it’s going to disadvantage students even more.

“They’re not going to be able to get that taste of the discipline, the accountability, and being part of things that as minorities we’re not exposed to most of the time,” said Robledo, Class of 2011 and a former member of the JROTC program.

First Sargent Eric Posey oversaw the program for 15 years. Under his leadership, the program has been presented with numerous awards and recognitions. Posey believes the district is taking retaliatory measures in ending the program.

“I believe it’s because I filled a grievance against the JROTC and the district,” Posey told CBS4. “I think this is an attempt to move me out because I wouldn’t quit.”

(credit: CBS)

Posey said for a few years, he’s been going back and forth with the district about his performance. He filed an arbitration, which he won. He believes he and the program are being targeted because of this.

But Lt. Col. Kevin Black, the DPS director of army instruction, said that Posey’s arbitration has nothing to do with the program’s end. Black said they’re discontinuing the program because of low enrollment. Black said each school has to have at least 100 cadets.

“We’re at the point now where there are only 57 students in the program so the instructors are only being used half time,” said Black.

However, Posey said the requirement is 100 cadets, or 10%, whichever is lower, and that 57 cadets make up 17% of the student population at Manual.

(credit: JROTC Manual)

Rivera and Robledo said whether it’s fifty-seven or seven hundred cadets, not having any will have a lasting impact on this school.

“Take into consideration the staff that’s going to be hurt and also the community,” Robledo said.

Marissa Armas