Two ROC’s named Christian Pearson and Justin Kelly made their way to class across Nimmock’s Quad, where at noon they’ll stand amongst their companies and peers and receive their next rank crest of private. The last few weeks have been challenging for the young ROCs, but they have remained in high spirits, ready to progress to the next level among their brothers in arms.
On Friday, Sept. 14 at noon sharp, the Riverside Military Academy held its Recruit on Campus (ROC) Cresting Parade for the rising Cadets. This is a ceremony that initiates ROC status students from their starting position to the next level, Cadet.
Today during the ceremony, ROC students ripped off their red identifying tags and replaced them with the black cadet tags, joining the rest of their upperclassmen as no longer the last of the rank in the Riverside totem.
Rank at this academy is very important, as it is with the military. After rising to a cadet, or more traditionally known as a private, the student will advance to a Private First Class. There are 14 ranks with the Lieutenant Colonel as the highest rank.
“After the ceremony, we’ll be cadets, which means we’ll have a lot more freedom than we do now. We’ll get to choose our drinks at mess, communicate more with the outside world, and talk to our parents for the first time in weeks,” Says Pearson. His friend Kelly nodded and smiled in agreement as his red ROC name tag glinted in the sun beneath the castle-esque brick walls of the Nimmock Quad.
A ROC student can be anywhere from 7th to 12th grade and remains on the lowest level for 30 days from the start of a new semester. Within those 30 days the student has many responsibilities and a few restrictions. Kelly is in 10th grade at 15 years old, and Pearson is in 11th grade at 17.
For the first two weeks as a ROC, the student may not have any communication with the outside world, including their parents. They may not have their cell phones or internet privileges. After the second week, ROCs may email their parents. Only after they become cadets may they regain their cell phone and outside communication privileges.
The beginning of the parade took place inside the large John L. Beaver Field House. This year there are over 500 ROCs and Cadets and the students were grouped into different companies. The nine companies gathered inside the field house in a formation that had been practiced twice a day for months.
Christian Mims, the marketing director at Riverside said before the parade that she expected over 600 parents and visitors would attend this parade, plus 502 existing cadets and 170 rising ROCs.
On the first day of class, the ROC will be given three books. The first book is the blue Cadet Regulations Code Book, which is their bible to knowing rules from how their bunks are expected to look, which are graded each morning, to off limit areas to mail and cell phone usage.
The second book is red and named Manners for the Riverside Man, a Guide to Gentlemanly Behavior. This book covers proper dress, greetings, and conversations as an exemplary Riverside Military Academy gentleman.
The third and final book is their most important guide, The Pocket Guide which is expected to be memorized from start to finish. This book is an introductory guide to the school and their expectations as ROCs such as marching formations, ranks and pledges. Each ROC must pass an exam on this guide before becoming Cadets.
The handbooks the ROC’s study in their first few weeks set the course of their experience at Riverside and serve as a guide to Riverside’s culture. The handbooks cover such topics as how to greet people, proper eye contact, how to dress, how to make their bed, and more. The positive impact such guidelines have on students is tangible; it's impossible to walk across campus without being greeted with a “hello ma’am” or “good morning, sir”, and all cadet, ROCs, and administrators are more than happy to help visitors in a variety of hospitable ways.
Riverside is a completely private school, and it isn’t affiliated with any branch of the military. They follow a military model and most employees and instructors do hold some form of military rank, but most graduates don’t join the military; they go to college. According to Mims, Riverside has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for cadets who decide to pursue higher education— and most are indeed college-bound.
“One graduate was accepted to Harvard last year, but he opted to go to Georgia Tech instead, because they have the specific cardiological engineering program he wanted,” Says Mims.
Cadets in the graduating class of 2018 were awarded over $3 million dollars in merit based scholarships, but graduating from Riverside means more than just getting into a great college, it also means learning and developing outstanding core believes that will be carried farther than just into college.
In the mess hall where each rank comes together to share a warm meal hangs a framed pledge that reads, “We develop the whole person.” It’s a simple phrase which truly epitomizes the mission and culture at Riverside.
“We develop the whole person.” — quote hanging in Riverside’s communal mess hall
SGT Payne greets guests outside Lanier Hall in preparation for the day’s festivities