Some people see things as they are and say 'why.' But cadets at Missouri Military Academy are looking at things that never were and saying 'why not.'
Earlier this week, more than 170 MMA cadets were dispersed to 14 locations throughout Audrain and Boone counties as part of the academy's annual fall Community Service Day.
Service locations included (but were not limited to) the Central Missouri Food Bank and Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia, city parks and churches in Mexico, King's Daughters Home, The City of Mexico Street Department, Mexico Historical Society, the Veterans' Home and Arthur Hills Golf Course and the City of Auxvasse. Cadets performed a variety of projects that met the needs of the organizations they served.
"The cadets really provided a valuable service to the city," said Kensey Russell, City of Mexico public works director/city engineer. Four or five groups of cadets worked seven hours one day placing storm drain medallions that ask people not to dump in their storm drains, and painting the curbing around the square – blue for handicapped and yellow for no parking. Groups also did storm drain outfall inspections.
"I think it's a great program," Russell said. "To my understanding, they do fall and spring community service that all of the cadets are required to participate in. Not only does that really help the communities (Mexico and surrounding) with volunteer hours, it helps the academy really become part of the community. They are contributing to the community and I think that is a good thing."
Russell said the value of the storm drain markings and curb painting is "pretty obvious," and the other deeds performed by the cadets "helps the City of Mexico compliance with DNR's Storm Water Plan. So it has that value as well."
This is the third year MMA has offered its fall Community Service Day. Cadets also participate in a similar event in the spring. The program is part of the academy's Community Service Program, which requires cadets to complete at least 20 hours of service per academic year. During the 2011-12 school year, the cadets contributed more than 9,000 hours of service to their communities.
"Community Service is an integral part of character-based education," said LTC Frank Giuseffi, MMA's dean of academics. "This is a way for cadets to understand the needs of the world around them and the positive impact they can make in their communities."
Established in 1889, Missouri Military Academy is a preparatory school with a military tradition that fosters academic excellence, character development and leadership training in a structured environment for boys grades 6-12 from around the world.
"The community idea behind the program is to get the cadets out there and to show them how to give back to the community they are a part of," said Christine Smith, MMA director of communications. "For so many years, MMA segregated from the community. So, to close that gap and to teach responsibility, we're showing them how to give back."
Through the program, Smith said each cadet is required to do two days throughout the school year. To date, the high school has performed 20 projects. "We're pretty serious about it," she said. They can't graduate until they get it."
In addition to the 170 cadets sent out this week, 20 plus Mexico High School JROTC cadets also took part – and word is spreading about their good deeds.
"They have gone to Auxvasse, the historical society's clean up and Walk Back in Time, painted square curbings and placed storm drain medallions. We sent people to the First Baptist Church and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. They have also taken part in the Adopt-a-Highway program in Rush Hill. A recipient in Auxvasse said they were very awesome, and others called inquiring information about their services," said LTC Tim Scherrer, director of MMA counseling, college placement and community service projects. The MMA middle school cadets, he said, also do the Buddy Pack program once a week for Mexico's three public elementary schools – which is a community project (through Central Missouri Food Bank) that helps keep underprivileged kids from being hungry when school is not in session.
Community service, Smith said, is a win-win situation for all.
For more information about MMA's Community Service project, contact Smith at (573) 581-1776.