By Dan Verner | Photos by Rob Jinks
High school sophomore Cailin Christoforo, an excellent student with an impressive 3.97 grade point average, manages to find time for her school’s rowing team, the Marine Corps Junior ROTC drill, and rifle teams, and ROTC and Young Marine color guards. On her own, she kayaks, rows, hones her archery skills, works with dogs, reads, shoots, cares for Wounded Warriors’ pets and—along with most other teenagers—covets sleep.
One of her passions, the Manassas Young Marines, is relatively unknown to most people. She hopes that will change as word gets out about the organization. And she’s doing her part to help make that happen.
This athlete, student and community volunteer has been part of the Manassas Young Marines National Youth Organization since 2014. Christoforo was named the Young Marine of the Year for her unit this year and the Northern Virginia Battalion Young Marine of the Year. Her fellow Young Marines address her as Sergeant Christoforo since she holds the billet (job) of platoon sergeant.
“I joined the Young Marines because I was always fascinated with the military, and I have wanted to be a Marine since I was five,” Sergeant Christoforo said.
“I heard about the program when I was eight years old and living in Connecticut,” she recalled. “We moved a few times to other places, but Virginia was the first duty station with a Young Marines unit nearby.”
“I really enjoy the challenges of the program, the friends I’ve made, the leadership schools, adventure camps, encampments and also being involved with my community,” she continued. “The program offers boys and girls, ages 8 through 18, or who have completed high school, opportunities to further their leadership experience, skills and abilities, while having fun.”
The Young Marines offers three levels of leadership schools. The first is an affordable summer program called SPACES (Summer Programs of Adventures, Challenges, Encampments and Schools) which allows kids to meet other Young Marines from all over the country while attending camps, such as National Flight Academy, Orme Adventure Camp, sailing adventure, National Encampment, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Certification, scuba diving school and Great American History Adventures. The program also offers college scholarships.
Approximately 20 Young Marines participate in the Manassas unit each year with five to 10 Young Marine Recruits in recruit training. Former, retired, active duty or reserve Marine adult volunteers, and those with prior military service in other branches of the military, lead Young Marine units, although prior military experience is not required to volunteer.
The organization numbers more than 280 units with over 9,600 Young Marines and 2,500 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia and affiliates in a host of foreign countries, including Germany and Japan. Prince William is home to a second chapter of the Young Marines based at Quantico.
The Young Marines participate in a wide variety of service programs and activities, including Red Ribbon Week, the oldest and largest anti-drug effort in the nation. It’s a natural fit for the Young Marines, given that part of the group’s core curriculum is “Drug Demand Reduction.” The Young Marines also honor and serve the nation’s veterans. That work goes on year-round with a week in November set aside for special activities.
Creating confident young people is a major achievement of the Young Marines, according to Christoforo: “That comes when one of my shy Young Marines comes out of his/her shell. They begin to talk to people they don’t know and ask them how their day was, and when they gain confidence, they step up and lead.”
The Young Marines program strives to create good citizens and leaders by placing an emphasis on teaching self-confidence, promoting academic achievement, building character and living a healthy, drug-free life style.
Christoforo considers herself “outgoing, humorous, independent, determined, detail-oriented, respectful, caring, neat and orderly.” Not to mention busy. She has put in more than 400 hours of community service since 2014, many on her own, including some outside of the Young Marines.
The Young Marines are always seeking new members. “Camaraderie, adventure, camping, marching in parades, helping your community and really making a difference awaits anyone who wants to join the Young Marines. Visit youngmarines.com, click on ‘Join’ and use the unit locator to find a unit near you,” Christoforo said. “We have units all over the country.”
We would all do well to have more young people like Sergeant Christoforo.
Dan Verner (email@example.com) is the author of several books and was named “Best Writer in Prince William County (Virginia)” for 2014 and 2015 by readers in a “Best of Prince William” poll taken by Prince William Today newspaper. Find out more about him at danverner.com.