Washington High School JROTC earns “Gold Star Program” distinction

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, December 16, 2023

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By Ellen Brabo, For Washington Daily News

The Washington High School U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program was awarded the prestigious “Honor Unit with Distinction” (HUD) designation during a ceremony at the high school on Dec. 13. This accolade, often referred to as a “Gold Star Program,” reflects the program’s exceptional performance in various areas of operation.

 To secure the HUD designation, a school must exhibit outstanding performance, scoring between 90-100% on the annual Unit Report and 95-100% on the JROTC Program of Accreditation. The WHS Army JROTC cadets achieved an impressive overall score of 98.0% on the Program of Accreditation evaluation.

“This award is only given to the top 10% of programs nationwide,” explained retired Army Lt. Col. Jorge Bocanegra, Washington High School’s JROTC Senior Army instructor. “Our cadets have attained that status for the first time in nine years.” 

The JROTC cadets completed a rigorous evaluation by 4th Brigade, U.S Army Cadet Command, on Dec. 7th. The inspection included assessments of the school’s improvement project, service-learning project, cadet portfolios, and hands-on performances, such as forming ranks, platoon drills, and knowledge of the JROTC curriculum.

For Cadet Nathan Sopher, joining JROTC was about being part of something bigger than himself. He and his fellow cadets, including Zion Collins, Brittany Ducker, Cayden Cushing, Sofia Pena, Jazmin Salazar, and Christian Bullock, dedicated themselves to meticulous preparation for the inspection.

During their presentations to the 4th Brigade inspection team, Cadet Amir Smith highlighted the program’s impact on his confidence and physical fitness. 

“I have more confidence in myself,” shared Smith, a sentiment echoed by many of his peers. “I’m physically fit and I believe there’s nothing I can’t do.” 

Bocanegra emphasized that JROTC’s primary goal is to train cadets to become better citizens. The instructors noted that JROTC cadets become more aware of their surroundings and learn to adapt their leadership styles according to immediate situational needs. 

“We train cadet leaders to become more marketable in the workplace by instilling dependability and confidence in them through leadership positions,” explained Bocanegra. “They are much more aware of their surroundings, and they learn to adapt their leadership styles according to the immediate needs of the situation they are in.

 The JROTC program at Washington High School offers enrolled students the opportunity to take one of four semester courses each semester, with a focus on community service. This year’s main project involved organizing a Red Cross blood drive, reinforcing the program’s commitment to building better citizens and leaders.