During her final two years of elementary school, Julie Bartley said she wore her emotions on her sleeve, and students constantly picked on her.
“I was a very emotional girl,” she said.
But in January, as a sixth-grader, she became involved in the after-school program at Medora Community Schools, which allows students to receive help with homework and gives them an opportunity to join clubs.
One of the clubs that sprung from that program was the Medora Cadet Corp.
With that group, Bartley became a superior female cadet, which is based on her leadership ability and other characteristics, and now is one of two sergeants.
Other students now see her in a different light and treat her with respect.
“This kind of helped me blow off my steam, get rid of that negative energy. I don’t get as angry and as frustrated and emotional,” said Bartley, now a seventh-grader. “I look at myself, and I’m like, ‘Whoa!’”
The Medora Cadet Corp grew from four students this past school year to 10 this year.
Bartley said it has been a good thing for the school because it teaches loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage, similar to the U.S. Army’s creed.
“I feel like this has really encouraged the school,” she said. “When I go to school, I send out those vibes I collect here at cadet corp, and I know to be a better example and to be more responsible and act older than I actually am.”
But there is one thing the group is lacking — uniforms.
Cindy Barnard, the adjutant general of the Medora Cadet Corp, said $1,000 is needed to provide caps, jackets and pants for the five boys and five girls.
She set up a GoFundMe online account where people can donate, and Casey’s Cakes and Classes in Brownstown is giving 50 cents of every cookie sold at the shop to the group.
Members also will be selling T-shirts at the annual HOPE Medora Goes Pink event Oct. 8. Those were made by a design club that formed from the after-school program.
“We had a wonderful deal with the Bedford Army surplus. They are giving us a discount because it would normally cost more than that for brand-new uniforms. They have a lot of people that come in with them gently used,” Barnard said.
“People are really rallying behind us and supporting us,” she said. “We would like to get to the point where we can march in the parades and all of that. We’ve got to get the uniforms first.”
This is the third school year for Blue River Services Inc. to offer the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school program at Medora for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The program runs from 3 to 6 p.m. every school day. They receive snacks for the first half-hour before concentrating on homework from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The rest of the time is spent participating in club activities and special events.
The Medora Cadet Corp meets from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The group formed when Barnard, assistant program coordinator, and Heather Richard, program manager, were looking for ways to engage middle school students in the after-school program.
Since both of them were in the military — Barnard in the Army and Richard in the Air Force — they thought something similar to an ROTC program would be beneficial.
Barnard said she was involved in ROTC when she attended John Marshall High School in Indianapolis. That led to her spending 22 years in the Army, where she traveled to 32 different countries and all 50 states.
The Medora Cadet Corp is not associated with any military branch, but it teaches similar values, Barnard said.
“We just want them to have fun and learn a little bit at the same time,” she said. “We want to teach them good citizenship, confidence in themselves and the ability to move out in the world and know that they are great. The kids learn to be good citizens, our future leaders, and we prepare them for what it takes to work to become the adults that we need. Let’s give them a firm footing to do that.”
It started with just seventh- and eighth-graders but later added fifth- and sixth-graders.
“They are loving it. They are just enjoying themselves,” Barnard said. “We started doing a drill routine and learned how to march and do the right face and the left face, and they were just excelling at it and said, ‘We want more.’”
In the spring, the students designed their own drill team routine and performed during the HOPE Medora Goes Pink talent show.
“We wanted to showcase that we existed and bring it out there,” Barnard said. “Then we got a couple more kids out of it to join us, and we saw people in the community who said they were glad we’re doing it.”
The group continues to practice marching and working on a drill routine for a program in December.
Eighth-grader Autumn Powers is in her second and final school year with the Medora Cadet Corp. She said it has helped her in several ways.
“I just wanted to be a part of something that could make me feel like I actually have something to do, and I could make myself feel stronger and more confident,” she said.
“Cadet corp teaches you how to have fun and discipline so (students) can learn how to be respectful and just learn how to listen to people,” she said. “I’ve learned how to control my anger, and I feel like it just helps me with everything.”
If she keeps her grades and attendance up, Powers said she hopes to be able to help with the program next school year.
Sixth-grader Brayden Temple said he joined the group because his great-great-grandfather was in the military, and that inspired him to follow in his footsteps.
With the drill team, Temple spins a wooden drill rifle, which was made this past school year by the industrial technology class. He took on that duty after Bartley’s brother moved on to high school.
Temple said he has made improvements with spinning the drill rifle, and he also has picked up the skills of listening, responsibility, discipline and being more empathetic and sympathetic toward others.
“It’s just a whole lot of fun,” he said.
Fifth-grader Jocelyn Douglas joined the Medora Cadet Corp in August. She said has been able to pick up on marching and the drill team routine.
“It’s not so easy once you get started, but whenever you actually start doing it and practicing it, it gets a little easier,” she said.
The group has helped all of the members in various ways, she said.
“It makes people behave better, and it has helped me act older and be an example for my classmates,” she said.
Bartley said the group has come a long way, and she would like to see the program offered to high school students in the future.
“Next year is my last year in it, and I really don’t want to leave because this is such a fun program,” she said.
Barnard said if someone else steps forward to help with the group, a high school program could be established.
“We would love to have it at all of the schools in Jackson County,” she said.