Middle school can be tough for many students who just want a place to fit in and excel.

Four Bibb middle schools now have a new program named Junior Leadership Corps that’s aimed at giving some of those students a chance.

“We do PT, marching, drill, color guard,” said 8th grader Essence Ellzey.

Junior Leadership Corps is a middle school precursor to JROTC.

Essence knows what it’s like leading her peers.

“If they’re doing something wrong, I help them. I don’t bring them down,” Essence said. “I build them up.”

SFC Sean Held is in charge, but he says he leaves most of the day-to-day to his students.

He says Junior Leadership Corps gives students responsibility they won’t find in other classes.

Held says it's even turned around some students who aren’t always understood.

“A lot of times those are the kids that I put in charge,” Held said. “They’re the ones that are out there leading the drills. They’re out there leading the physical fitness. They just need an outlet to express themselves.”

Cassandra Washington oversees the career and technical education for Bibb Schools.

She says the lessons these students learn go beyond the leadership classroom.

“You will see other students following, even if they are not in JLC,” Washington said. “You will see character building, and people start saying, ‘Wow, look at that individual.’”

That’s the higher standard Essence holds herself and her peers to.

“Everybody just thinks…is this the decision I should make before I do this,” Essence said.

She knows that this small taste of military life may open the door to a future career.

“I definitely want to become the Sergeant, or the top person of the Army,” Essence said.

District leaders hope to eventually expand Junior Leadership Corps to all Bibb middle schools.