COVENTRY, R.I. — Budget cuts in the cash-strapped Coventry school district mean many programs are on the chopping block, and one group is trying desperately to save a program it says is important to many students. NBC 10 first reported on the Air Force Junior ROTC program losing its military funding several months ago. Now, the program has been approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education to become part of Coventry's career and technical center. The program must maintain a minimum of 100 cadets and raise $250,000 for the military to fund the program completely. The deadline is July 30. "It's like trying to sell snow shovels in the summer to get cadets from outside the district," Karen Raposa, a parent of three current or former AFJROTC cadets, said. "It's the eleventh hour right now." Getting recruits from outside the district means other districts would pay Coventry for their individual cadets, but since many superintendents have already formulated their budgets for the upcoming year, Raposa tells NBC 10 the group is hitting roadblocks. Now, they are asking for help from corporate sponsors and have set up a GoFundMe page to get help from the community. Current cadets like Melissa Cole say they're worried the program might not be around much longer. "I want to be an Air Force flight nurse," Cole, a rising sophomore, said. Cole said she has made friends and won awards through the program and hopes to continue with it so she can join the military one day. "It's really changed my life," Cole said. "I got put in it on accident but it has been the greatest decision of my entire life." Parents say the program teaches values they want their kids to learn. "Citizenship, responsibility, self-discipline, integrity," Raposa said. Parents tell NBC 10 their biggest concern is that if they lose this program, it could take years to get it back up and running again.
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