The Naval Junior ROTC program for Washington High and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School students is showing growth.

Master/Sgt. Tim Gates, program instructor and Marine veteran, said the program has 85 cadets this year, an increase of more than 20 over the previous school year. He spoke at a meeting Thursday of the Washington Chapter 324 of the Korean War Veterans Association, and gave an update on the program.

There are 11 female members. Most of the cadets are from Washington High — 66. Borgia has 19 students enrolled. Efforts will be made to recruit more girls.

The immediate goal is to have 100 cadets. When that number is reached, the U.S. Navy will provide most of the funding, authorize another instructor and allocate uniforms and some equipment.

Master/Sgt. Gates, who is new this school year, said some parents believe the program’s mission is to train students for a career in the military. He emphasized the goal is citizenship development. Some of the students, when they graduate, will join the military, but the overriding purpose of the program is to make good citizens out of the young people.

Master/Sgt. Gates praised the discipline he has found in the cadets here, along with their commitment. He also praised the community support for the program, especially from the Booster Club members. He has had 15 years of teaching NJROTC. He spent over 20 years in the Marine Corps.

The Korean War veterans, along with the other veterans’ organizations, have supported the program because of its merits in fostering discipline, teaching responsibility and citizenship. Pacific and St. Clair high schools also have JROTC programs.

The Missourian has heard from a number of parents who have children in the program, and they have noted the positive results in their children. The program is recognized for changing lives of young people and giving a positive direction to them. It is one of the best programs to ever be established in the high schools here.