CORNER BROOK — Jennifer Hartley doesn’t know the direction her life would have taken had she not joined sea cadets 15 years ago.
She’s just glad she did.
Hartley was recently promoted to the rank of commanding officer of the 184 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Curling.
Since signing up with the corps in 1997, Hartley said she received support and learned valuable life skills which helped her complete a bachelor degree in business administration from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University and go on to pursue graduate studies in business.
She is currently a special events co-ordinator at Grenfell.
“Without the cadet program I don’t think I would have followed the path that I have,” Hartley said during an address to the Rotary Club of Corner Brook Thursday at the Glynmill Inn.
One of the largest youth programs in Canada, Hartley said cadets gives young men and women the chance to participate in summer programs where they can learn about sailing, music and marksmanship, all while travelling throughout the country.
All the programs are free and cadets can earn various qualifications which are Canadian certified.
“When they get to sail level for example, it’s the civilian level,” she said. “They can take what they learn in cadets, go into the civilian world and get a job at a yacht club and teach the things they’ve learned.”
The local sea cadet corps also sends some participants to international exchanges and deployments, which are often once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for any young adult.
“It’s the opportunity for a kid to spend time on an actual ship in the Canadian Navy like the HMCS Fredericton,” Hartley said. “We’ve had two or three cadets get these trips annually, so we’ve been pretty lucky to have these kids picked up.”
But it isn’t all hard, serious work. Indeed, despite the perception that cadets is all about drills and instruction, Hartley said in today’s corps there are plenty of fun activities such as bowling nights, lazer tag, as well as Christmas and Halloween parties.
It’s a message she plans to spread throughout the community as the corps attempts to boost enrolment from its current 50 members to 60 by this time next year.
The organization has also started handing out information at local schools such as G.C. Rowe Junior High School and Presentation Junior High.
Hartley is particularly hopeful recent information sessions during curriculum night at the schools will help educate parents about the benefits of cadets.