Skip navigation

Regent University’s First NROTC Preparatory Program Cohort Graduates

Graduates of Regent University's first NROTC cohort on a stage in uniform: Joshua Ellerson, Solomon Foster-Smith, Kassidy Mayfield, Francisco Morales, and Michael Harrill
left to right: Joshua Ellerson, Solomon Foster-Smith, Kassidy Mayfield, Francisco Morales, and Michael Harrill

“Honor, Courage, and Commitment” are the U.S. Navy’s core values, taught to college students across the nation as they prepare to serve their country. Among them are a handful of Regent University students, eager to begin illustrious careers as midshipmen.

After four years of hard work coupled with tremendous personal and spiritual growth, Regent’s first official Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Preparatory Program cohort celebrated their 2024 graduation and are now preparing to depart across the seas.

Prior to graduation, the four midshipmen, Joshua Ellerson, Solomon Foster-Smith, Kassidy Mayfield, and Francisco Morales, received their Navy assignments. Among them are the USS Shiloh in Hawaii, the USS Robert Smalls in Japan, and the USS Jason Dunham in Florida.   

In an impressive show of how far they’ve come in the previous four years, the cohort participated in a Joint Commissioning Ceremony held at the Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 2. There, they received their commission as Navy ensigns. They graduated from Regent University two days later, on May 4.

John Cordero, Director of Military Affairs at Regent University, served 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and has extensive experience helping military students navigate higher education while ensuring that all ROTC graduates are well-prepared for their future careers.

Through the NROTC Preparatory Program (NPP), he has strived to ensure that the benefits associated with the wider NROTC program are also available to underprivileged students with the desire, commitment, and discipline to overcome the challenges in their lives and become leaders.

Getting to see Regent’s first cohort of NPP graduates has been tremendously rewarding for Cordero.

“The commissioning of these four students marks a significant milestone for Regent University and the NROTC Preparatory Program. Witnessing their transformation into capable leaders has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Their commitment to excellence has set a high standard for future cohorts. As Regent graduates and the first NPP graduates, these students embody our motto, ‘Christian leadership to change the world.’ I am immensely proud of their achievements and confident they will excel as officers in the Navy, making a positive global impact through their faith and service,” Cordero stated.

The five-year program is both physically and academically rigorous; a little over a dozen students enrolled in the NPP in 2019 when Regent became a participating university. Over the years, that number dwindled down to just a few, including one NROTC student who graduated from the program early in 2023. Regent is among just 25 universities that offer the program.

For many NPP students, the opportunity Regent offers is life-changing. The program gives students who have financial challenges or who may not qualify for traditional NROTC scholarships based on test scores alone the chance to be selected for a full, four-year scholarship. It aims to increase opportunity and improve representation. The NROTC Preparatory Scholarship Reservations (NPSR) provides deserving high school students with the resources they need to further their education and pursue a commission. 

During the program’s preparatory year, the students complete a basic military training regimen designed to strengthen their skills so they can gain the entry-level knowledge required to complete NROTC.

Most of the 2024 cohort hails from around the nation. Mayfield is from South Carolina; in early April, she received the Chief of Naval Operations Distinguished Midshipman award. Foster-Smith, from Texas, was awarded the title of number one Surface Warfare Officer in the Hampton Roads NROTC unit. Ellerson, from Georgia, majored in computer engineering.

Morales, the only local student from Virginia Beach, also majored in computer engineering. He wasn’t even aware of Regent University prior to starting NPP and planned to interview at the Naval Academy, but divine intervention in the form of an injury that upended his application led him to the program.

“I came here blindly and did not know how the culture was. Now, I don’t even remember life before Regent; I have been here for so long and grew into this atmosphere; I grew as a person and became a better person than when I came here,” Midshipman, First Class Francisco Morales told The Daily Runner.

Midshipman, First Class Joshua Ellerson, who was active in JROTC in high school, similarly didn’t immediately have Regent on his radar. He applied for the NPP a week after the deadline.

“I think it was God’s plan to come here,” he admitted.

Midshipman, First Class Kassidy Mayfield, who wasn’t able to afford college without a scholarship, became aware of the NPP through her school’s JROTC leadership.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and knowledge I have gained through the program,” she stated.

Midshipman, First Class Solomon Foster-Smith worked to raise awareness of opportunities like NPP for high school students whose families can’t pay for college. Since beginning his career at Regent, he’s returned to his hometown to mentor students who hoped to follow in his path.

“By attending NPP, you can change the trajectory of your life, as long as you are willing to take an opportunity that you were not planning on,” he said.

As a token of appreciation for being the top performer in his NROTC unit, he was gifted a clock tucked inside a compartment box to commemorate his time at Regent.

“I will find myself looking at [the clock] 20 years from now. It is interesting to think that I am the number one SWO at the unit, and it is nice to think that the work I am putting in is showing,” he stated.

John Cordero foresees a lot of growth for the NPP, expecting to accept 15 new candidates for the 2024–25 year.

“As we look to the future, we envision NPP continuing to expand and evolve. Our goal is to increase the number of students we support, providing even more aspiring leaders with the opportunity to pursue a career in the Navy. We aim to enhance our training and development programs, ensuring that our students are academically prepared and embody the Christian leadership principles necessary to succeed in their military careers. The future is bright for NPP. I am excited to see how our graduates will exemplify Regent’s motto, ‘Christian leadership to change the world,’ in their service to the Navy and beyond,” he stated.

About Regent’s NROTC Preparatory Program

Regent’s Navy ROTC Preparatory Program is part of a partnership with Old Dominion University that allows students to take courses (including Naval Science courses) toward their Regent undergraduate degree while fulfilling their Navy ROTC commitment with ODU.

The NPP at Regent University provides an unparalleled opportunity for prospective Navy Option Midshipmen, offering access to resources and training critical for success in earning a commission in the Navy. The core mission of the NPP is to bolster the moral, mental, and physical foundations of midshipman candidates. Participants selected for NPP will receive a comprehensive scholarship covering tuition, room and board, and fees for the preparatory year at Regent University. Upon completing all preparatory program requirements, students will be eligible to receive a 4-year NROTC scholarship from the U.S. Navy.

To learn more about the NROTC Preparatory Program, please review this information sheet or contact the Regent’s Military Resource Center at If you are a high school student but have not yet begun your senior year, consider pursuing the Royals Leadership Challenge to study military science and earn college credit at a discounted rate.

Related: A Young Man’s Path to a Better Future

Nominate a Noteworthy Alumnus

Know someone whose story should be featured in Regent Stories?

Tell us more

Become a Regent World Changer Sponsor!

Invest in our Christian leaders of tomorrow.

Donate today