Tom Tolen /

Beginning next fall, people passing by Brighton High School may see youths in uniform marching around the football field. But we're not talking about the Bulldog football team. At its meeting this week the Brighton Board of Education approved a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) course which will start in the fall of 2024. The board also approved new courses in Micro and Macro Economics and Comparative Government - all of which are Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

The JROTC program will be sponsored by the US Navy, although Army and Air Force programs were also considered. However, Howell High School already offers what is regarded as a highly successful Air Force JROTC program, so it was decided to go with a different program for Brighton. At a meeting in September, Board President Roger Myers said, “With the Navy program there is no risk to us for two years, and no out-of-pocket costs to us with the county support.”

The JROTC program is one which Board Treasurer John Conely has been advocating for several years. The program initially will be fully funded by the Brighton Area Schools. It will need a minimum of 100 students to be accredited by the US Navy.

Once it achieves accreditation, the Navy will provide uniforms, textbooks, training aids, travel allowance and a substantial portion of the instructors’ salaries. In addition, the Belleville Public Schools - which has its own, award-winning JROTC program - has offered to provide uniforms and equipment for the Brighton program.

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners helped jump-start the program by approving a $150,000 grant after being approached by Conely with a request for financial help. In September, that board unanimously agreed to provide $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the program. Conely said, “They’re a big part of why the program got approved.”

In order to start, the course will require a minimum of 10 students. ARPA is a federal economic stimulus program designed to aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. County Board Chairman Dave Domas says the funds will be spread out over 2-3 years.

Conely said students should be able to sign up for the program sometime in February, after the Course Selection Guide is presented. The Brighton Navy JROTC program will be available to all eligible Livingston County students, regardless of the school they attend, including any who are home-schooled.