BENNINGTON -- A new high-school led afterschool program based on military practices and values will be offered to students of Mount Anthony Union Middle School this fall.
The Green Mountain Cadet Program, unlike any school-sponsored program in the state, is designed to develop body, mind and spirit with a focus on academic instruction, leadership, ethical responsibility, community services and physical fitness. Designed by Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Afterschool Director Robert Marine, with the help of active and retired members of the military, the cadet program is similar to Junior ROTC programs but has no association with the military.
"We're not recruiting for the military in any way, shape or form. We're looking for the students who are interested in the military, we're looking for kids who need a little more confidence in who they are because of the age they're at, who are trying to fit into a group. We're looking for kids that want a little more of a challenge with physical fitness," said Chuck Krawczyk, a retired sergeant with the Vermont Army National Guard who is instructing the program. "We're not refusing any kid."
While students who are interested in the military will have an opportunity to learn more about it, the program will also give middle schoolers other important life lessons that can benefit them in their everyday life.
"No matter if you want to go into the military, or marketing, or whatever, the things that you're going to learn and what it instills in you carries over," said Christina Crowe, a first lieutenant with the Vermont Army National Guard who is volunteering her time to help the program.
Designing of the program began months ago and this summer a half-dozen high school students began training under Krawczyk on how to lead platoons of middle schoolers when the program begins this fall.
"(The high school students are) running the show. We give them the tools, teach them how to give a class, but they're actually saying we think this is good, we want to do this, can we do this?" Krawczyk said.
The high school students who are already involved were all drawn to the program because of their own military aspirations.
"I've always been interested in the military and this seemed like a good start to see if it's what I really want to do," said Steven Madison, who is entering his junior year at Mount Anthony Union High School.
Travis DeForge, who is going into twelfth grade, said he signed up for the program to both learn more himself and for the opportunity to teach others.
"I'm planning on doing ROTC in college so a program to learn a little more about that I was pretty interested in. Also, I'm a martial artist so anything that teaches kids discipline they don't have to start with is fantastic in my book," DeForge said. "What we've been doing here is in a lot of ways what martial arts teaches. It teaches self-discipline, independence and self-confidence. We're also doing PT -- physical training -- to help them live a healthier lifestyle."
DeForge said the physical training will be challenging but also fun.
In addition to physical training, students in the program will learn how to march in unison and do other military-style activities.
"For the cadets coming in from the middle school, I just want it to be an ordinary day in the military type of thing where you have a formation, you have to report in, you have roll call, you have physical fitness to get out of the way, you have classroom work -- be it first aid or be it drilling ceremony," Krawczyk said.
Liam Downey, a senior who also wants to enter the U.S. Navy, said he is looking forward to improving his own leadership skills while also helping younger students.
"It's a good mentoring program so we can help kids and hopefully give them a better route to their future or actually get them focused on their future," he said.
The program, which will run two days a week for two hours apiece, will be preceded by a time for academic tutoring. Also, at least once a month, the group will do a community service project at places like the Vermont Veterans Home, which high school senior Tom Spier is looking forward to.
"I'm excited to give back to the people who have already served," he said.
Anyone who wishes to contact the Green Mountain Cadet Program may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Robert Marine at 447-7501.
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