September 12, 2013 --
Performing a wide variety of missions may be considered second nature for Marines and those skills might serve a few of them well as they spend nine months entering classrooms to inspire elementary and middle school students.
Five Marines with Marine Corps Logistics Command visited five different classrooms at Southside Middle School, Albany, Ga., Monday morning for 45 minutes as part of the Mentors In Action or M.I.A. program.
Beginning their first day as positive role models for eighth graders, the Marines engaged the students about time management and talked about their roles as Marines.
Last year, Staff Sgt. Juana Snell, equal opportunity advisor, MCLC, established the program at the International Studies Elementary Charter School, Albany, Ga. Not only will M.I.A. continue at the charter school, she added the middle school to the program this year.
M.I.A. is designed “to facilitate an educational and motivational environment where students can strive for excellence as well as provide a place where mentors can serve as positive enforcers of leadership, professionalism and dedication,” Snell said.
Snell formed “Mentoring Above Resistance and Inspiring New Endeavors” from the word, “Marine,” to tie the program with the Corps. A minimum of one hour per week is required of the Marines who volunteer and they have the option of mentoring students at more than one school.
“I hope (the Marines) see the impact that they make in different lives,” she said. “I also hope they realize their value and how awesome it is to have the opportunity to be a Marine. It can change lives.”
Snell described the program she established last year. Thirteen Marines - two from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and 11 from Marine Corps Logistics Command - participated.
“At the time there wasn’t a mentorship program that reached out to elementary school children,” she said, noting as far as she knows Albany is the only place that has the M.I.A. program. “My goal is to give Marines an outlet for volunteering as well as making an impact in a child’s life.”
Following Monday’s mentoring by Snell about time management, Southside Middle School student, Jasmine Gordon, 13, said she learned to use her time more wisely.
“Marines, they do a lot of hard work,” Gordon said.
Fellow student, Quantavious Melton, 15, said Snell made him look at things differently in his life such as studying and getting good grades, which will make high school easier.
Melton added he would like the Marines to come back “because they taught me a lot and inspired me to do more in my life.”
Johnny Scott, principal, Southside Middle School, praised the Marines for choosing his students to mentor.
“We are very happy and fortunate the Marines chose us ... which makes me think and lets me know we are doing something good and we are headed in the right direction of making our kids productive citizens,” he said. “We are looking for a good partnership and (I hope) it will extend past this year.”
Monday’s mentoring motivated the Marines, they said.
Lance Cpl. Peter Hernandez Fuentes, administration specialist, MCLC, who volunteered for the program, spoke to a group of eighth graders Monday morning.
“It was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “They’re inquisitive, eager to learn and willing to hear what you have to say. Little things like this are making a difference in kids’ lives and I am looking forward to going back.”
The 20-year-old Marine added he feels he in turn may learn from the students.
“Maybe seeing the situations they come from will teach me to value where I am currently in my life,” Hernandez Fuentes said.
Sgt. Essic Stroman, administration specialist, MCLC, also volunteered for M.I.A.
“It was very fulfilling to give back to the youth,” he said. “I was inspired by first graders who wrote to me when I was in deployed in 2007 on a unit deployment program in Japan, and they are now eighth graders.
“Speaking to an eighth grade class (was) kind of my way of giving back to the first graders, who wrote me letters while I was on the unit deployment program,” Stroman added.
Stroman signed up for both schools and he will mentor first graders at the charter school.
“I want to learn how to be a more effective mentor and how to speak to children on their level, guide them in the right direction and help them make the right choices,” he said.