GULFPORT, Fla. -- “In high school, women are going to have a lot more balance," says Taryn Spence, a senior at Boca Ciega High School. "Men, not so much."
The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) brigade commander believes stability gives the her female-strong rifle team the award-winning an upper-hand on much of her competition.
She might be right. Boca Ciega's Rifle Team is predominantly women. They just won the state championship.
Even more impressive, junior Anxhela Hila had the best aim in all of Florida.
Almost 500 students are in Boca Ciega’s JROTC program. There are boys and girls, from freshmen to seniors. The school has a strong tradition of young women in positions of power.
Chief of Operations Shannon Harner believes role models give way to new role models.
“Much of our strong leadership has come from females," says Harner, a senior at Boca Ciega. "Past brigade commanders, past executive officers, have been female. And I look at them and say, wow, they’re such strong leaders.”
Nationwide, about 40 percent of JROTC programs are made up of women. There is no obligation to enter the military. In fact, only a small tradition do.
Carmela Lueders, who wants to pursue a medical career, says JROTC isn’t about making better soldiers, but better people and strong women.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was a freshman,” said Lueders, a senior at Boca Ciega. “But JROTC helped me set goals and figure out how to achieve them.”