The military presence is alive and well at Goldsboro High School, in the form of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC.

The Army ROTC program focuses on leader and team development, but more emphasis is being added to expose students to educational field trips, said 1st Sgt. Lem Gray, one of the school's two instructors.

He and Army Col. Curtis Inman, both retired military, recently took 38 students to Washington, D.C., visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as touring the National Mall and several historic memorials.

Cadet Lt. Col. Jonathen Hernandez, the highest ranking cadet and battalion commander, especially enjoyed going to the museum, he said.

"Since I'm half African-American, half Honduran, I enjoyed the culture part of it," he said. "Seeing the history of African Americans was a positive experience for me."

The senior has been in ROTC throughout his high school career, he said, joining to get a feel for the military. After high school, he plans to join the Air Force.

"I also wanted to get the experience of what military life was like," said Cadet Timothy Ward, a sophomore.

One of his favorite events so far, he said, has been the summer JCLC, or Junior Cadet Leadership Camp, held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

"It was like boot camp," he said.

The ROTC program at GHS has been growing in numbers, with a surge in female enrollments.

"This year we have gotten more people coming out, maybe 20 boys and girls," said Cadet Tawana Richardson, a sophomore who joined the ranks last year.

"For me, I found it kind of easy," she said. "I'm understanding more as I go."

She was admittedly shy at first, but has surprised even herself with how much she has gained from the program.

"Like more responsibility, I've come out of my comfort zone a lot," she said. "I have a commanding voice that I didn't know I had. I'm not as shy as I used to be."

Richardson hadn't given much thought to going into the military, but after spending some time in the ROTC program, appreciated the confidence it gave her as well as leadership training.

"I have plans to go to college so I can be an officer in the Army," she says now.

This year she is taking over commanding a squad of new recruits.

At this week's drilling ceremony, she called out marching commands for the freshmen lined up before her. She said she likes the teaching role and helping others find their place.

Freshman cadet Tiana Brewington said she signed up because she wants to join the military like her brother, now stationed in Japan.

"Personally, I feel like I belong here because really, my whole family has been in the military," she said. "I just want to carry on the legacy."

Average class size is 30 to 35, but Gray says he likes to "pack it out" at 40 for first-timers.

"I think it's growing in popularity," he said. "This is our largest class. We're looking at incorporating the Wayne School of Engineering students. We have a lot interested, it's just a matter of scheduling them.

In addition to six classes, the program features a drill team that performs at football games and other events, as well as competitions to hone their skills and enhance students' skills.