After a 41-year tradition of discipline and skill building, members of the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Coventry High School have been told that the unit is dissolving.
"Membership was shocked," Col. Steven Buteau said Friday.
Buteau, the program's commander, said it's because of cuts in military funding that it cannot continue.
"We were warned a year ago -- 2012 -- if you do not meet the numbers next year, due to budget constraints in the Air Force, we're going to have to close you," Buteau said.
The Air Force mandates that at least 100 students need to be participating in the program for it to receive funding. Buteau said the Coventry program has been close to meeting that threshold, but is not quite there.
The students in the program say dissolving it is a big mistake.
"I was really disappointed. I knew how much this program had done for me and how much it changed my life," Cadet Major Katelan Stinehour said.
"What I'm going to be able to take with me is a lot of pride because without ROTC, I wouldn't be the kid I am today," said Cadet Commander Mason Raposa.
The cost of the program is about $125,000 a year. But because it already exists at the school, the price tag to keep it going may not need to be that high. They have books and uniforms already. It's up to the superintendent and the school committee to figure out a way to allow the program to continue as a self-funded entity.
Its current members have a message for the program's youngsters.
"Don't stop fighting because there's a way we can still be a family and a unit without the books and the room and colonel and sergeant. We can still be one," public affairs officer Katelynn Stalaboin said.
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