Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Leto High graduate turned life around with help of JROTC

Thomas Harring, with Leto principal Victor Fernandez, left, and the school’s JROTC commander, Larry L. Jordan, plans to be a scout sniper in the Marines.

Leto High School JROTC

Thomas Harring, with Leto principal Victor Fernandez, left, and the school’s JROTC commander, Larry L. Jordan, plans to be a scout sniper in the Marines.


Thomas Harring entered his freshman year at Leto High School as a self-proclaimed bad boy. • He didn't care about homework or grades, he refused to listen to his teachers or even stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. By sophomore year he was failing. His grade-point average hovered at 0.7. Suspensions were a common occurrence. • In return, many people gave up on him. He heard over and over again that he would never amount to anything. • Then, he watched as one of his best friends dropped out of school and slid further down the wrong path. And it hit him. That was exactly where he was headed, too. • Fast-forward to today and much has changed.

On Friday, the 19-year-old will graduate with a 2.6 GPA. He is headed to Marine Corps boot camp in the fall.

And he owes it all to the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

"When I got into the JROTC is when I started having respect for others and doing well in school," he said.

The turnaround garnered attention — this time positive.

"It feels good," he said. "I went from being the person people looked at and called an idiot, a dum-dum, a bad kid to that smart kid."

He hopes to become a scout sniper in the Marines and enroll in college. He thinks criminal justice might be his calling once he retires from the Marines.

His JROTC commander, Larry L. Jordan, has witnessed the success first hand.

"He went from a kid who refused to stand and say the pledge to a kid who I'm very proud of," Jordan, who is retired from the Navy, said. "He is just a complete turnaround."

Thomas' mother watched the transformation, too.

As a freshman "he started hanging with lots of boys from the wrong crowd. He didn't want to come home and was hanging out late at night," Dixa Teters said.

But she needed him to step it up at home, where there hadn't been a father figure in years, she said. As one of five children and the oldest boy, she hoped he would fill in as the man around the house.

And he did.

"He got into the JROTC, cut his hair and became a man," she said. "It gave him that structure, they are strict and I think that's what he needed.

"I'm proud of him. I want to see him go far."

This summer, he plans to work out daily in preparation for boot camp. He knows it will be hard. He has spoken to people who have been through it. But if he learned anything in high school, it is to believe in himself.

"I'm starting to think I can do this," he said.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Leto High graduate turned life around with help of JROTC 06/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 2:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005


    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  2. Crash at U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park kills one, shuts down traffic


    PINELLAS PARK — A man is dead after a crash between two cars at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and 70th Avenue N just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Pinellas Park police are investigating the death of a man during a crash on U.S. 19 early Saturday. (Pinellas Park police)
  3. Tropics watch: The latest on Harvey and what systems could hit Florida


    While Eastern and Central America monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Harvey, two tropical disturbances are moving through the Atlantic.

  4. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge


    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]
  5. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.