So much of our work as school administrators can be focused on college readiness. Academic rigor, test scores, and GPAs can sometimes dominate our world and our focus. I am blessed to work in an amazing school district Port Jervis CSD in a wonderful community that sits in the western part of Orange County, New York. We have many great traditions in our district ranging from athletics to our local landscape (see the Hawk’s Nest, Port Jervis) to deep community roots. One tradition that has really grown on me and impacted my work as a school and community leader is our students attending the military. Each year we have a wonderful group of young people who decide to dedicate their lives to serving our country. This is an amazing commitment and year after year I see the eye of the tiger in these young people ready to go and make a positive impact literally on our world. So how do we as school educators support these young men and women? How do we celebrate their accomplishments? A few things we have implemented along the way are:
Acknowledge them before, during, and after their commitment. We do this through our school announcements, military bulletin boards, and ceremonies throughout the spring of their senior year.
We invite our seniors who are joining the military to walk with a large American flag in the procession at Graduation and stand at attention during the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. The students are individually recognized announcing their branch of the military amounts. This is a proud moment in front of their family and the community. They then fold the flag together in the traditional flag folding method.
Lastly, we welcome them back. Many join the the recruiting teams who come into our school regularly to talk to students. They return proudly in their uniforms and we always make time to be with them, hear about their experiences, and again thank them for their service. I especially like to send notes to them at their different training locations and service areas. We also include several in our alumni gathering in December of the year after they graduate to speak to the current juniors about their experiences.
In addition to the military service branches, we also celebrate our students that gain entrance into the service academies: the Army at West Point NY, the Navy at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and the Air Force at the AF Academy located in Colorado Springs CO. In this episode of Education Leadership and Beyond #ELB 68 I was fortunate to speak with Andrew Forrester, class of 201 graduate of Port Jervis and current academy Air Force cadet. Andrew is a bright young man who shares of his journey at the Air Force Academy. It’s not all sunshine and joy as Andrew shares of his struggles with time management, the academic rigor, and his dedication to be able to successfully manage both of those. Andrew recently returned to our school to meet with several students who are in interested in joining the US service academies and shared about the importance of preparation, taking care of all of the paperwork, including the very important nomination, and the importance of adding outside resources to your resume: leadership opportunities in clubs activities and sports. Please share this blog with any of your students that may be considering the military and I’m sure we can put them in touch with Andrew for at least a conversation. Continue to celebrate and honor your students who are joining the military in addition to all of your graduates going on to colleges and the workforce. Best of luck in the 2nd half of your school year! #ELB #survivethrive
Aim high, Fly, Fight, Win