MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Fifty-six high school students from around the country gathered here for the Marine Corps’ first Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy, Aug. 6-10. The SLCDA is designed to teach the students valuable leadership skills through instruction from experienced Marine officers.
“We’re spreading the word about Marine Corps leadership, character and ethics,” said Lt. Col. Erik Van Weezendonk, reserve support officer, Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “A lot of these kids are already interested in becoming Marines in the future. They’re learning a lot about what it takes to lead Marines and what it’s like to be a Marine.”
The week gave students an inside view of the Corps that few who do not wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor can see. Each day began with a physical training session, including modified Marine Corps physical and combat fitness tests. Students also received classroom instruction from Marines on subjects such as leadership traits and skills, character and ethics of leaders and war fighting tactics.
“I think the leadership qualities are the most important thing you can learn here,” said Luke Lierly, a high school junior from Fresno, Calif. “You can learn a lot at [the SLCDA], even if you don’t want to become a Marine.”
Lierly, however, wants to become a Marine. The son of a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, he hopes to become a Marine officer after college.
Though instruction was especially important in accomplishing the objectives of the SLCDA, the week was far from all work and no play.
The students had the opportunity to visit Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), the squadron responsible for transporting the President of the United States.
“The students had the chance to climb aboard a static display helicopter and to learn how an operational unit like HMX-1 works,” said Van Weezendonk.
Students also had a chance to perform community service in Stafford, Va., assisting Habitat for Humanity with a housing project.
“I liked the community service project,” said Kyle Younger, a high school student from Fort Lewis, Wash. and the son and brother of Marines. “It feels good to give back.”
The students also had the chance to visit Washington, D.C. There they stopped by George Washington University to learn about the college admission process and different commissioning programs offered by the Marine Corps, such as the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program.
The students finished off the week by viewing the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington.
“The whole week was very fun. I learned a lot about leadership,” said Lierly. “I would definitely recommend the camp to all my friends.”
Younger agreed with his assessment.
“This week was awesome. I’ve never had an experience like this before.”
In addition to running the week’s events, Marines also kept parents updated on their sons and daughters progress through pictures and videos posted to the SLCDA’s Facebook page.
“I am truly amazed of all the kids have done in the short period of time that they have been there,” commented parent Giap Lofgren.