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Jackson Public Schools hosted the 7th Annual JPS JROTC Military Gala on December 14, 2018, at the Jackson Convention Complex. There were over 900 cadets, instructors, parents, school administrators and other invited guests in attendance. The event is held annually as part of a comprehensive development program for cadets and is an opportunity to celebrate the excellence, accomplishments, and contributions of the JPS JROTC Program. The Military Gala exposes cadets to a formal military dining experience while encouraging camaraderie among the cadets and their instructors.

Head table guests

Head table guests including the mayor, JPS administrators, JROTC instructors and directors and cadet command staff.

The guest speaker for the event was City of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. Elected to office on June 6, 2017, Lumumba has been recognized as one of Mississippi's Top 50 Most Influential Leaders. Mayor Lumumba's lifelong objective is to continue the struggle on behalf of oppressed people worldwide, so that they may eventually obtain the self-determined lives they so justly deserve. Mayor Lumumba is a faithful member of Free Christian Ministries and serves on the church’s leadership team. He is married to Ebony Lumumba, and they have two daughters, Alake' Maryama and Nubia Ngozi. He is the son of two life-long community activists–Chokwe and Nubia Lumumba. His father preceded him in city government, serving as a member of the city council before becoming mayor of Jackson in 2013. The elder Lumumba died in office after serving a little over one year.

Ruben Banks and Mayor Lumumba
Cadet Brigade Commander Ruben Banks presents a gift of appreciation to Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on behalf of the JROTC.
Juanita Ward
Former professional basketball player Juanita Ward delivers an inspirational message before an attentive Gala audience.

The cadets also heard an inspirational message from Coach Juanita Ward. A graduate of Callaway High School, Ward went on to play college basketball at Syracuse University where she majored in Communications and Rhetorical Studies. She later enjoyed a professional basketball career with the WNBA and played most notably for the Tulsa Shock. She also played professionally in various countries overseas. Through her mentoring program, Hope Dreams 4 Life, Ward helps instill leadership, character, accountability, and responsibility in the lives of others. She is currently the head girls basketball coach at Hartfield College Preparatory Academy in Flowood, Mississippi. Ward has a passion for Christ and loves helping others tap into the power to excel from the strength within them.

The Gala program included a tribute to fallen soldiers, a toast, and a presentation by the battalion commanders of each JROTC unit. JPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Freddrick Murray, School Board Secretary Barbara Hilliard, and JROTC Director Col. (Ret.) Paul Willis also gave remarks.

The JROTC Program in JPS produces high-achieving scholars through character education, wellness and fitness activities, and leadership development. It is a cooperative effort between the United States Army and JPS to produce successful students and citizens while fostering a more constructive and disciplined learning environment.

The Gala is also a time to celebrate the phenomenal success of the JROTC Program. Cadets graduate from high school at a rate of 95 percent, are accepted to institutions of higher learning at a rate of 96.5 percent, and receive an average of $6.2 million in scholarship offers annually. Additionally, four of the seven JPS JROTC units—Callaway, Lanier, Murrah, and Wingfield—have earned the U.S. Army's highest accreditation ranking of Honor Unit with Distinction based on achieving scores of 96 percent or higher on their most recent Program of Accreditation Assessment. The remaining three units at Forest Hill, Jim Hill, and Provine are all rated Proficient with scores of 90 percent or higher.