New Jersey is surrounded by states with a number of military-themed education opportunities. However, since the United States Military Academy Preparatory School was moved from Monmouth to the grounds of West Point, the Marine Academy of Science and Education is the only formal secondary school in the state. There is also a special ‘boot camp’ style school run by the state’s national guard and several institutions with ROTC and JROTC programs.
Marine Academy of Science and Technology
Highlands, NJ – Coed
Often called simply MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology was founded in 1982 is one of the country’s most innovative career/vocational schools. It is actually just one of five such schools that make up the Monmouth County Vocational School District.
MAST students follow a four-year program closely integrated with a Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. While this activity replaces the state’s normal physical education program, it includes a great deal of drill and other physical activities.
College and Career Prep
As a public, co-ed college preparatory secondary school (grades 9 to 12), MAST is known for its strong commitment to academics. Its stated mission is, in part, to produce graduates ’empowered to meet the challenges of a global community by providing a rigorous academic environment with a core specialization in marine science and technology.’
To fulfill this mission, in addition to a standard prep course load, the school also expects its students to complete:
- Four years of languages (French, Spanish or Latin)
- Three years of laboratory science
- Three years of marine technology and engineering
- Naval science courses
Nationally Recognized JROTC Program
The students at MAST wear uniforms every day, as is the case at many military-themed schools. The primary uniforms are those of the U.S. Marine Corps, as it is a part of the Department of the Navy. Students follow a military schedule that involves regular formations and ceremonies such as drill.
The students at MAST have various military-related activities to participate and compete in, such as drill and honor guard. Additionally, summer camps provide realistic military experiences and training, including sailing and seamanship. While individual performance is recognized, there are also a number of team and unit competitions at which the school has excelled.
A Record of Excellence
As an example, for 25 straight years the school has earned the status of a NJROTC Distinguished Unit Award with Honors. Units from the school regularly place or win in such activities as drill, academic decathlons, and honor guard.
Perhaps one of the strongest marks of the school’s success is the fact that each year as many as ten MAST graduates receive appointments to one of the five U.S. service academies (equivalent to receiving full four-year scholarships). Additionally, many MAST students go on to other colleges and universities with full or partial ROTC scholarships.
Important Admissions Guidelines
According to the district’s admissions policies, ‘eighth grade students must be residents of Monmouth County at the time of the Application Deadline.’ The district provides a detailed application checklist that provides the steps necessary for admission.
As a public school, there is no tuition and the MAST student uniforms are provided free of charge.
Youth ChalleNGe Program
Fort Dix, NJ – Coed
The state of New Jersey has worked with the NJ Army National Guard to develop an innovative and successful program for students who face special challenges. The NJ Youth ChalleNGe Graduation program of the New Jersey Army National Guard is a rigorous 22-week path to a GED conducted on a residential basis at Fort Dix. Youth ChalleNGe is now the second largest mentoring program in the nation. After completing the courses, the cadets take the GED test. If they pass the exam they will receive a New Jersey State High School Diploma after completion of the five month residential phase.
Admission to this program is open to any legal resident of the U.S. and New Jersey. However, selection is competitive and prospective participants must submit an initial request to the Recruiting, Placement and Mentoring office. The program is co-ed, but those admitted must be free from drug and alcohol and have no legal issues pending.
Military-Themed Education in New Jersey
In addition to these secondary education opportunities, more than 20 colleges and universities in the state offer ROTC programs for each of the military services. In fact, the Princeton / TCNJ Army ROTC program is one of the oldest and most respected in the nation. While postsecondary ROTC programs normally come with a commitment to serve in the military after graduation, secondary JROTC programs are free of any such obligation.
New Jersey has more than three dozen secondary schools with JROTC programs that offer a variety of military-related experiences. If you are a parent evaluating such programs, it is worth noting they can play a positive role in helping your student secure scholarships for college or an appointment to one of the federal service academies.