MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
It is sometimes said, “The children are our future,” and, as such, we should invest in their educational growth. Servicemembers are doing their part to help foster such an environment by taking part in the “Adopt-a-School” program at Matthew C. Perry High School here.
The program originated at the school to help at-risk students and athletes who walk the line between passing and academic eligibility increase their grade point averages through extra study time and also provide a way for station servicemembers to give back to the local community.
“The program, from our perspective, is that we want to provide an opportunity for Marines to utilize their volunteering skills at the schoolhouse in a productive way,” said Richard Dye, M.C. Perry High School language arts teacher and academic case manager.
The program’s academic eligibility information gathering evolved from merely ensuring student-athletes are eligible to encompassing all junior and senior high students.
“They’re supposed to be used for extracurricular activities but we apply that data school-wide,” said Dye. “It’s what we use as our standard.”
Students are considered at-risk if they receive two Fs or less than a 2.00 GPA .
This type of spread out approach for at-risk students ensures everyone is equally recognized and tutored.
“We’ll always catch our athletes, but we’ll catch those who aren’t athletes, too,” said Lorenzo Brown, M.C. High School principal.
Of the 250 students who comprise the school's classes, 12 percent, or 30 students, are considered “at-risk.”
“We want our kids to succeed,” said Dye. “So we came up with a plan to incorporate a community outreach.”
To allow servicemembers the opportunity and convenience of interacting with students, school administrators tweaked the program to take place during opportunity hall, a place students can study during lunch, after school and during seminar time.
Support from the station command also contributed to the success of the program.
“With command support, both (Lt. Col.) Lewis and (Col.) Stewart’s support, and Sergeant Major Brown’s, these Marines were all encouraged to volunteer,” said Dye.
Another contributing factor to the success of the program is how well many of the Marines are able to relate to the younger students, which may be harder for a teacher.
“When you look at the age of most of the Marines, most of them who are volunteering are fresh out of high school,” said Dye. “So their age proximity is really good for making good relations with the kids. I think having that fresh perspective of what it takes to make it in high school really has helped. The Marines can translate that information to the kids really well.”
Fifteen Marines volunteered thus far and are on track to finish the program on June 3, volunteering more than 225 hours after eight weeks.
Another added benefit of the program is in the mentoring style the students receive from interacting with Marines. “It’s a win-win for both,” said Brown. “(The Marines) provide a certain level of structure and guidance in helping the students develop and hone their study habits and study skills. It also allows the young Marine to be active in the community. The other positive is our young students see you don’t have to be 40, 50 years old to give back to the community. I think it increases the chances of when they graduate from high school, they turn around and do the same thing.”
“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. I’m not the biggest brainiac out there, but I figured I’d see what it is I could do, what subjects I could help out with,” said Cpl. Ronald Watts Jr., an “Adopt-a-School” volunteer and station provost marshal’s office special reaction team member.
For Watts, this was a metaphorical way for him to help out those he knew who struggled when he was in high school and
also prepare for when he may possibly become a coach.
“I knew some of my friends who needed the help, who didn’t want to go to the parents or try to go to a teacher,” said Watts. “I always look for a way to help somebody out.”
Whether mathematics, English or history is a Marine’s strong suit, there’s always a way to lend a helping hand to students who have academical difficulty. The Marine who comes along and helps may very well be the one of the few to proudly to reach and educate that student, mentoring and positively influencing a new generation.