When I was a cadet many years ago, we were not focused on community service. We were very isolated on campus and had little interaction with the "real" world. Thankfully, times have changed on military school campuses, and cadets are expected to contribute to their community. This helps build their self-esteem, builds civic and social responsibility, provides professional experience, and allows them to help their faculty and staff give back to the community.
Coed - Howe, Indiana
As the head of a JROTC Unit with Distinction, Colonel Tyler Osenbaugh knows the importance of cadets serving their community. As an instructor, he teaches his students that a community is made better by the people in it. "By serving others you gain ownership in your community and are a happier person."
Each year his cadets conduct Service Learning projects. He explains, "Community service is labor for a program. Service Learning involves identifying a need, creating a plan, laboring, and educating the community and encouraging others to help."
Colonel Osenbaugh stated that this current generation of cadets is more compassionate than previous generations. When he was a Howe cadet there were very little opportunities to serve the community. He is very proud of the work his cadets do.
Howe cadets will complete hundreds of service hours this school year. A major project will be hosting A Night to Shine on their campus in February, which provides a prom experience for people with special needs.
"A community is made better by the people in it."
Previously, cadets have volunteered at a special needs thrift store, an animal shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Reasons for Hope Cafe, church outreach programs, and hosted their yearly police memorial service.
One of the projects Colonel Osenbaugh is most proud of is the No Child Left Alone program. This program focuses on the children of deployed service members. Many National Guard families do not live on or near base and do not have the same support networks as families of full time service members. Howe cadets involve the community and hold meetings for these kids to come together, hang out and speak with others in similar situations.
Carson Long Military Academy
The Carson Long faculty and staff are very involved in their local community and with the JROTC department for service learning projects. As a small school, they are flexible enough to incorporate community service opportunities into their curriculum. The biology class is involved in a local community garden and agriculture projects, while the history classes work with the local historical society.
On a recent visit to their beautiful campus, my family and I were fortunate enough to enjoy lunch with a cadet who wants to go into the medical profession. CLMA has enabled him to explore this career and find out more about himself by arranging for him to volunteer at a local nursing home.
"Many cadets have never volunteered before and community service helps them to see outside themselves."
Each cadet must do twenty-eight hours of community service each school year, which equals a week of volunteering each semester. According to Mrs Carolyn Pio, the art instructor, "many cadets have never volunteered before and community service helps them to see outside themselves." Each faculty member helps with community service and works with students to come up with projects. They recently held a blood drive because a cadet said, "ma'am, I want to do a blood drive."
Opportunities for service include working in the local food bank, providing filled backpacks for elementary students, participating in the state park Christmas program, adopting needy families for Christmas gifts, mentoring middle school students though the local library, singing in the Glee Club around the state, playing games with nursing home residents, and shoveling snow for the elderly (for which the town even gives them a list with addresses).
All Boys - Harlingen, Texas
Several staff members lead the charge for community service at Marine Military Academy. Lieutenant Colonel Grider, the Development and Admissions Director, is a Rotarian and involves cadets in many Rotary Club activities through the Rotary Interact Club. Rotary International follows the motto of Service above Self, which helps the cadets see that it is not about the individual but about the community and giving back.
"The reward is doing something positive and feeling good about it."
The Rotary Interact Club meets each Tuesday at the president's mess where they discuss becoming involved in upcoming opportunities. MMA cadets are certainly involved and complete a combined 3000 to 4000 community service hours each school year. According to Lt. Colonel Grider, "you can't go wrong with community service. As a school MMA creates good citizens and community service is a big part of that."
MMA offers no awards for community service as the reward is doing something positive and feeling good about it.
Recently, cadets have participated in helping out at a local concert series, unloading and stacking pumpkins at the Methodist Church, helping train pet therapy animals, reforestation of local woodlands, and are looking forward to dressing up as Santa and his elves for Christmas.
Believing that he would spend only a few years at MMA after transitioning to civilian life, Lt. Colonel Grider has instead spent the last twenty years working with cadets. He agrees with Col Osenbough at Howe Military Academy that cadets and society have changed towards more community service. "Cadets are more inclined to help others and do things that are not expected of them."
All Boys - Camden, South Carolina
Cadets at Camden Military Academy participate in a wide range of service projects in their local community. Cadets locate many of these opportunities with their faculty and staff supporting them.
"Cadets appreciate helping others, it boosts self esteem and helps them to focus on the small things."
Camden is located in South Carolina, which has been hit with several natural disasters in the past few years. To provide assistance, cadets have worked in food pantries, contributed a semi-truck full of food, passed out fresh water, and helped clean out damaged homes. Casey Robinson, the Admissions Director, recalled a conversation with a cadet while cleaning out homes damaged by the recent flooding. The cadet had family members that had been similarly affected and he hoped someone was helping his family the way he was helping this one.
All Boys - Carlsbad, California
Army and Navy Academy is very involved in teaching their cadets about community service. Mrs. Sara Ortiz runs their Rotary Interact Club and one of their favorite activities is supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
ANA also has an Anti-Bullying Club, which exists in schools around the country. This club promotes kindness and helping others, and works to instill positive characteristics in ANA cadets and the community.
"Community service empowers our cadets to bring people together by demonstrating kindness and helping others. It is an opportunity for ANA cadets to give back to the community while demonstrating personal growth and self-esteem. Community service benefits our cadets - and everyone else - because it enables us to think about and to put others' needs before our own. In everyday life, it is easy and tempting to just put our heads down and plow through the day. Working directly on projects that benefit others who are less fortunate than we are helps all of us remember how fortunate we really are and also see, firsthand, that our efforts can make a difference in another's life."
Recent opportunities include: volunteering at a food bank, organizing and operating a snack bar for the Veterans Day parade, visiting with retirement home residents, helping kids with homework, organizing a MADD presentation for cadets, helping entertain and supervise children at a fair, and conducting a blood drive.
Coed - Woodstock, Virginia
Frank Campbell, an alumnus and head of the mentor program at Massanutten Military Academy, is very proud of what his cadets are doing for their community. Each cadet is required to have twenty-five hours of service each year and most do more. Some are already past that mark in November.
Massanutten's admissions department specifically looks for new students who care about others, and once they are enrolled, cadets are assigned into mentor groups. Each group meets at a special mentor lunch each Tuesday where they discuss service projects for their group. The mentor group that does the most is recognized at the end of the school year.
As an alumnus, Frank notes that cadets have much more of a focus on service than cadets did when he was in school: "Cadets have more resources and communication that allows them to think more globally."
This year for their campus Veterans Day ceremony, cadets will be walking to a local nursing home and bringing back residents to participate in and watch the program.
Coed - Front Royal, Virginia
R-MA cadets provide a great deal of service to their community and to the world. As an Air Force JROTC school following the Air Force Core Values, including Service Before Self, the faculty teach the cadets to help others and not just to focus on themselves.
Celeste Brooks shared a great example of relating the community to the cadets. At a recent school-wide assembly, all of the band members were asked to stand. The standing students represented the percentage of local residents who did not have enough to eat. This really brought home to the cadets, many of whom are from other countries, what they would be working to help.
"Helping others becomes a part of who they are."
A favorite opportunity of the the cadets is participating in Stop Hunger Now. After raising the funds to bring in a truck of dry goods, cadets unload the truck to create and pack individual meals. While this is serious work, the cadets make it fun by playing music and ringing a gong for every one-thousand meals packed. Each event creates ten thousand meals for needy families.
All Boys - Gainesville, Georgia
Riverside strives to develop young men of character. Community service is a part of this character development and while it is not required for graduation, all Riverside cadets serve their community throughout the school year. In keeping with this, a group of faculty provided, "Community service affords the opportunity to develop character through service to something greater than self."
This year RMA has initiated a Red Cross Club, which specifically targets service to others. The new club complements the other campus clubs and honor societies already serving the community.
"Community service affords the opportunity to develop character through service to something greater than self."
According to representatives of the faculty, "some RMA cadets have strong convictions about supporting local churches or volunteering for charities such as Habitat for Humanity or the Humane Society. Others enjoy interacting with kids from the local community through organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club. Overall, the cadets most enjoy serving others where they feel as though they are making a real difference in the lives of others."
By servicing their communities, both locally and globally, cadets are doing more than just building their academic resumes. They are becoming better people who believe in helping others. Military schools are teaching cadets to not only work for their own goals, but to help others to achieve theirs.