NEW BERN, N.C. -- Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 adopted H.J. MacDonald Middle School during a ceremony at the school in New Bern Nov. 19.
In accordance with the contract signed by both the squadron and the school, Marine volunteers will provide mentoring, tutoring and other services to the children of the school. The program is effective immediately and will continue for the foreseeable future because there is no end date on the contract.
“We have about 15 percent of our student population that is connected to the military in some way,” said Deborah Langhans, the principal of the school. “I think having the squadron support us is not only helping the students from military families but all of our students here.”
“I think that certainly there is no better role model for today’s youth than a United States Marine,” said Lt. Col. Richard T. Anderson, the commanding officer of the squadron. “I think the students recognize that. When they see a Marine in uniform, they know exactly what that stands for. I do believe that a good role model and mentorship could help shape a young person’s thinking, the way they want to be and the way they want to grow up.”
The school recently held a fall festival with the help of Marines stationed at Cherry Point. Immediately afterward, Marines were already volunteering to help next year.
“The Marines who already participated in our fall festival were a tremendous help, and the kids absolutely loved it,” said Tina Izzo, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. “I think it’s going to be a good experience for both sides.”
The impact goes both ways, said Anderson. He said the experience of mentoring children can facilitate Marines’ growth.
“When you have students that are very impressionable looking up to them to get guidance on how to structure the kind of a person they’re going to be when they grow up, now that puts a lot of emphasis and a lot of positive pressure on Marines to be better than they are right now,” said Anderson.
For some of the children, this will be their first time experiencing military mentorship while in school.
“I think this will be kind of cool,” said Tristin, a 13-year-old student at the school. “I’ve never had this happen in any of my old schools, and I’ve (attended) three different schools."